How do children learn language? Play! And not with flash cards, or anything else that you can buy. Children are born with a complete package of language-learning tools. The only accessory they need is you, helping them unlock their natural instincts for language. After reading this first section, you'll be using play and instinct to communicate soundlessly with a newborn, to help him fill his language-building toolbox, and to create a stimulating environment for language development.
First Play: Sounds and Signs
Imagine a database of sounds in your child's brain. Where do these sounds come from? How do they file, sort, and choose to use these sounds to communicate? In this lesson, you'll look at why their mind is made for these remarkable tasks and learn straightforward ways you can lend a hand (even in the form of sign language!). This lesson also includes a fascinating overview of brain and mouth anatomy.
"Mama" and Other First Real Words
You say, "Shelly just said, 'ball'!" But your friend says, "Nah, that was just babbling." Who's right? Does something count as a real word if it isn't pronounced perfectly? In this lesson, you'll explore what makes a word real and learn how to interpret your child's patterns of simplifying early language. You'll also start using a journal to uncover the rich potential in your child's one- and two-word phrases.
Understanding Before Speaking
Once you understand the mechanics of hearing and understanding, your role in encouraging language can be powerful, simple, and fun! Many caregivers ask at this stage when they should start to worry about language delays. This lesson will soothe your concerns by discussing what to watch for, when to seek assistance (and from which type of specialist), and when to stop worrying and keep playing! You'll look through a list of typical first words that you can use to trace your child's communication explosion.
Watching and Playing
Can you guess when a baby's brain grows the most? How do you facilitate this growth? Again, the answer is play! In this lesson, you'll match favorite infant-caregiver games to the neurological functions they stimulate. You'll also learn how language affects the development of thinking skills, just as the function of thinking affects language development. You'll then explore how to keep this circle of growth cycling.
Adding Pieces to Phrases
Your kiddo is talking, but you're not done yet! Although two-word phrases, such as "get ball" certainly communicate an idea, your child will keep refining their sentences as they grow. In this lesson, you'll find out how to help them progress to past tense, contractions, pronouns, and conjunctions. You'll also learn about the fascinating thought processes behind questions. Don't forget your journal!
Be a Natural Model
Now that you have listening, speaking, sounds, words, and sentences, what more is there? Lots! Is it still fun? Do they still need you? Of course! In this lesson, you'll continue with a few more do's and don'ts for caregivers, emphasizing a popular learning tool: games!
Making the Tongue Take Off
Expanding on the anatomy lesson, this lesson will show you how sounds depend on strong, agile mouth muscles. Before you start thinking about tongue push-ups, remember that it's best to maximize the opportunities within natural interactions. A discussion of feeding—including your choices of bottles, cups, and straws—is key. The lesson will answer complex and controversial questions about pacifiers, sippy cups, and thumb sucking, and provide some great tips for easing necessary transitions.
Playing With Sounds
Some sounds sound fun (like boing!), and some sounds feel fun (like zzzzzz). What does this kind of fun teach if it doesn't use precise words? In this lesson, you'll find out what you're teaching when you encourage your little one to play with sounds. You'll also learn which speech games will help you make the connection from speech to reading.
Speech, language, and communication are different but related topics. In this lesson, you'll learn how to help your talker become a conversationalist! Using your knowledge of how sounds make language, you'll learn how language is used to communicate and connect with others, which is called the social use of language.
While children follow similar development processes, no two walk the same path. As more is discovered about learning, the lines between different, delayed, and disability grow foggier. Demystifying these terms is easier when you learn about different learning styles, and when you understand the styles used by you and your child. Although you can't eavesdrop on your child's thoughts, what you learn in this lesson will help you help them connect their learning style and their use of language.
A Word About Literature
Teaching a child the alphabet tends to be a common first step toward reading, but is it where literacy begins? While this skill can be gratifying for adults to see, literacy begins in the brain and is nurtured with fun and games. As you've learned about language skills, literacy doesn't come in a box from the store. When you understand instincts and use them in fun and play, they come from you.