I just finished Jill Stamm’s “Bright From The Start” and was encouraged by her section on how live, repetitive interaction boosts early language development. Her suggestions seem natural – great tips to keep in mind as we language on together.
Language development begins in utero. Understanding its use begins as infants interact with family and caregivers, while language acquisition explodes by the time they’re three years old. Babies are born physically equipped to hear distinct language sounds (phonemes). By age one, they tune out words not frequently spoken around them, which in turn, they cannot easily pronounce. In fact, normal and deaf-signing toddlers go thru similar language development milestones: 1st word (11-14 mos), two word combos (16-22 mos), complex rule-driven communication by 3 years on. While the ability to read early is not consistently linked to advanced intellectual performance later in a life, it’s increasingly necessary to excel in certain schools, and thus, influence self-esteem et al.
Live, repetitive interaction is not about putting a CD, radio or video on repeat for passive learning nor about having a non-stop verbal diarrhea with your child. Rather try these activities together!
- Use intentional parentese to stimulate brain and extend attention span
- Speak Multi or Bilingual naturalistically, preferably with dedicated caregivers or playdates
- Engage him face to face at an appropriate distance, use music, hang photos, selected mobiles
- Lap read! Enables a visual embrace as you and child are looking at the same object. Start short (5 min) but frequent, 4 mos on when visual acuity improves and he can reach out to see and touch objects/pages
- Deliberately point and label objects by name (light, door), attributes of objects, highlighting ones that are same or contrasting ( smooth, rough, big, small, square, round, blue, red), feelings (tired, hungry, happy)
- Read over and over! Hold him close, let him turn pages randomly and be hands on (fine motor skill practice). Modulate voice and facial expressions, even use props to invite participation. Vary intonation to match enthusiasm, emotion, meaning. Intro simple books with 1-2 sentences per page and plenty of rhythm, rhyme, repetition, rhyming songs, and random play with rhyming words. Knowledge (i.e. retention) generally kicks in after two weeks of repetition
- Talk frequently! Describe actions and objects. Positive tone, conversational interactions.
- Dialogic reading: Read with children while engaging them throughout. Describe the illustrations (where’s the frog, how many), describe what they think is happening, predict what might happen next (what’s he doing, where’s he going), personalise ideas (remember the frog at the park?), share feelings about things in the story, leave lines incomplete — let them fill in the blanks!
- Start simple music lessons (keyboard, violin, percussion). Sing fave songs esp with actions
- Follow tots lead on interests and expose them to environmental print (EP). Read all around you, ask open ended questions. Differentiate printing vs pictures vs sounds that describe them
3 years on: Phonemic awareness (ability to hear beginning, middle and ending sounds), Phonics (linking sounds to letters) and EP recognition evolves by then too.
Choose books that match your child’s brain level of engagement. Stages of a reader (based on cognitive development):
- Attends to pictures, doesn’t form stories – picture/photo books, flash cards
- Attends to pictures, forms oral stories – creates own story across the pages with “nonsense talk” – listener has to see pictures to follow along
- Attends to pictures, forms written stories – spoken words and intonations sound like reading
- Attends to print – recounts and retells stories they already know while pointing to the print rather than pictures, not actually “reading”
Recommended tot books (the list is endless, here’s a few from her book)
- Interactive/lift the flap – Dr Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Karen Katz. Baby Dance (Taylor, A). Fit-A-Shape: Shapes. Where’s My Fuzzy Blanket (Carter, N). Wheels on the Bus (Stanley, M). Touch and Talk: Make Me Say Moo (Greig, E). Quack Quack, Who’s That? (Noel, D).
- Emotions: Winnie the Pooh: Feelings (Smith, R). WOW! Babies (GEntius). Faces (Miglis, J). Baby Faces (Miller, M). Where the Wild things Are (Sendak, M). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Viorst, J). The Selfish Crocodile (Charles, F). Glad Monster, Sad Monster: A Book About Feelings (Emberley, E). No David! (Shannon, D)
- Rhyme & Rhythm: Dr Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown. Each Peach Pear Plum (Ahlberg), Moo, Baa, La La La (Boynton). Five Little Ducks (Raffi). Five Little Monkeys (Christelow). This Old Man (Jones). The Itsy Bitsy Spider (Trapani). Find the Puppy (Cox)
- Scribbling (Pre-Drawing/Writing): Crayon World (Santomero), Figure Out Blue’s Clues (Perello). Blue’s Treasure Hunt Notebook (Santomero). Harold and the Purple Crayon (Johnson). Get in Shape to Write (Bongiorno). Messages in the Mailbox; How to Write a Letter (Leedy)
- EP books: Cheerios Play Book (Wade). M&Ms Counting Board book (McGrath). Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Counting Fun Book (McGrath). Kellogg’s Froot Loops (McGrath). Sun Maid Raisins Playbook (Weir). Oreo Cookie Counting Book (Albee)
- Helping Young Children Learn Language and Literacy: Birth Through Kindergarten (Vukelich, C. Christie, J. Enz, BJ)
For updates, reviews and more, like Finally Mama on Facebook and follow me on Instagram.