Language skills development is crucial in the first three years. It is the gateway to communicating and engaging with the world.
We are social beings and are often intrinsically motivated to engage and share our ideas, thoughts and feelings with others. We use different tools and media such as music, dance, and creative movement to express ourselves and relate with others. In the process, we learn more about ourselves and the world around us.
Infants and toddlers are also communicators. It is imperative that they are supported on their speech and language skills development. Parents and educators alike need to do this for them. However, it requires the investment of effort and empathy to support young children as co-partners of their learning and development.
Infants and toddlers’ speech and language development normally develops progressively over the first couple of years. In fact, the first three years of a child’s development is often associated as critical in laying the foundations of the child's overall development.
Speech development gradually transitions from simply exploring with vocalizations and responding to their name in the first six months. It then progresses to being able to use single words in speech with meaning. Awareness of social value in speech happens by the time a child turns one years old.
By the time a child turns three, his vocabulary bank can possibly have approximately more than 1000 words. This allows the ability to combine words into short sentences, successfully expressing their needs, ideas, and inquiries.
Every child is unique
Regardless of the pace each child develops at, children are designed to engage and interact with others. It is important to acknowledge their efforts even when it comes across as babbles at the very beginning. It is important for adults to exercise empathy with their efforts to communicate even if their ability may not be fully matured.
We should stay observant to discover the patterns of their efforts and find the significance of those attempts and utterances. Make meaning and add value the babbling by expanding and building upon them through our verbal and non-verbal responses. Above all, it is key for us to be patient, to listen, and wait for children to respond. This gives them the time and space to communicate with us.
Regardless of age in the first 3 years, building communication skills in infants and toddlers can be supported by adults who engage them in conversations. This can be done simply by singing and talking to them, and valuing the importance of everyday opportunities. Routine activities are ideal and provide fertile opportunities to engage children in interaction.
Engaging children in verbal interaction during these times initiates, sustains and invites communication. It sets the stage for further speech and language skills development skills.
What does it take to communicate? Find out on the next page!