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Things you can do to help children’s language development and what to do if you think they’re behind. Knowing this is part of being a great daycare provider and running a home daycare.
Language activities for toddlers
1. The first step in creating an environment that is great for language development is to show children that words have meaning. When you read a book, point to the words as you read them, as you cook a recipe, show the kids that the words on the page tell you HOW to create the recipe.
2. Reading to kids is the number one way to encourage them to master language. It’s also the best way to help kids become great readers. Children should be read to daily, in a positive way with physical touch.
I try to touch all the kids as I read to them, I might put my arm around one, sit next to one, have one on my lap and hold another one’s foot or hand or rest my hand on their leg as we read. It’s not always possible to touch them all, but it’s a way to communicate positive memories with kids about reading, so I do it as much as I can.
3. Another great way to improve children’s language skills is by talking to them. If you are a parent or a childcare provider, you should be talking all day long! You should listen to kids intently and look them in the eye when you listen to them or talk to them.
Even holding their hands in yours so you can make them understand they have your attention and you want to hear them. You should talk about what you’re cooking for them, what you’re doing when you help them in the bathroom with potty training or changing their diapers when you are getting prepared for an activity when you are doing anything with them.
4. Music helps children develop language skill. The rhythm of music enhances all types of learning for children, and adults incidentally. Listen to all kinds of music with your kids.
Language development activities
5. Tell made up stories to your kids and listen to theirs. Imaginative stories are not lies, they are fantasies that help children discover life and the world around them. Tell your kids silly stories, a lot!
6. Cut down on screen time. Children under two should have no screen time and children over two should not be viewing screens for more than two hours a day. That programming should be quality educational programming as well.
Children need interaction and response in order to learn language. Screen activities such as video games and television shows are not able to provide that to children and should be limited.
7. NEVER criticize how your child speaks. If someone mispronounces a word, just repeat it back to them correctly and praise their efforts. Do not say negative things about how children speak or shame them in any way.
8. Watch out for ear infections! Ear infections cause hearing loss and language delays in many children. Make sure you keep an eye out for them and look for warning signs such as pulling at or rubbing on their ears, drainage coming out of ears that is off-color, or the child complaining that their ears hurt.
Earaches are incredibly painful as well, so if you suspect your child could have an ear infection, get them the medical attention they need immediately.
9. Make sure to present plenty of activities to your children that stimulate language development. We do language experience sheets at Little Sprouts.
I have a photo of each child doing something at daycare. Then, I glue the photo to a blank sheet of paper and bring the child to the table. Next, I ask the child to tell me a story about the picture and I write down exactly what they say how they say it.
I give the kids as much eye contact as possible while I’m writing and I smile at them and encourage them with positive reinforcement. They love telling me their stories. We hang these on the wall at daycare until a month or two later when we make a new one so the kids can look at them and remember back about the story we wrote together.
I give each mom a notebook at mom’s night out to keep the sheets in so she can look back and see how her child’s language has progressed over time. They are one of the most treasured things the families have commented on from daycare.
Another activity we do is use Clifford my big world books to read together each day. The sets come from Scholastic classroom magazines and have a large book and a set of small books that are the same.
We tape the large book to the wall and the kids get out the small books daily at story time. We read the book together out loud with them repeating what I read as I point to the words. Hopefully, by the time we have been reading them for two weeks, the kids can tell what the books say. This is a great pre-reading practice activity as well as a great self-esteem builder. To check out how to get your classroom magazines, click here.
Describing what you are doing or toys or materials children are playing with is a great way to increase language throughout the day. Make the most of mealtimes for pleasant conversations. We have the BEST discussions during meals at Little Sprouts. All kinds of things come up, even some parents would rather didn’t.
Remember that early intervention is key, so if you think a child has a serious speech or language delay, try to get help for them as soon as you can. Talk to their parents, ask the health department if there is free testing, and find a way to help them for the future.
Use your imagination to think of ways to add language experiences to every part of your day. Your kid’s language will develop right before your eyes. What do you to do encourage language with your kids?