As a parent, since you are one of the first person with whom your child uses speech to communicate, what and how you speak can positively impact your child’s speech (if you use correct grammar and a wide vocabulary). You are a role model, and your child pays attention to everything about you. If a child does not hear much speaking and is not exposed to a varied vocabulary, this will most likely be reflected in the child’s verbal development. So it is fair to say that parents influence child verbal development the most
On the other hand, children can and will use some technical terms when they are made aware of them. They will also create increasingly complex sentences if they are exposed to the use of them. Exposure to a rich vocabulary in a child’s early years of learning will have a positive effect. Acquire a picture dictionary for very young children and later purchase a children’s dictionary for frequent and easy use at home. In all homes, children commonly look to their parents to explain the meanings of words new to them. Keeping a dictionary handy allows a parent and child to look up words together and discuss their written meanings. This activity will support the integration of new words into your child’s vocabulary. Listening and speaking come before reading and writing, so all the better for the child to have strong speaking skills!
Children will learn about things to which they are introduced and what they think you hold important. For example, young children living on farms know and use technical language, names of machinery, plants, pests, and terms for animals’ anatomy.
New Words, Ideas and Ways of Speaking: Again, books at home and from the library are a source of different types of communication. Books are a wonderful resource for exposing your child to many different words. Look for books at your child’s understanding level that present ideas differently from how you present them. Read books to your child that introduce new words and interesting ways of stating ideas.
As with all learning, learning new words should not be an isolated experience for most children. The words need to be relevant to the child’s experiences. For example, as you investigate bugs in your backyard, have on hand a few reference guides and children’s books about bugs so that you can find and learn the correct terminology for the bugs (and their features that you and your child discover).
Speaking to More than One Person: Try to provide your child the chance to become comfortable speaking to a group of people. (This can occur at preschool, hobby class, your Sunday school, and so on) As with listening, practice can occur at the family dinner table and in play groups.
Strengthening Speaking Skills and Modeling Listening Skills: Encourage your child by asking him/her to Tell you a story, during car trips or to relate what happened that day in a story. Bedtime and mealtimes are perfect settings for this activity. Make sure you turn off all the distractions, such as television, radio, and telephones. Give your child your full attention, sit attentively, and ask questions about the story.
Awareness of Loudness: Assist your child in the use of appropriate loudness with which to speak during different occasions. If need be, practice volume control with your child when you are alone at home, either encouraging him/her to speak louder or more quietly. Sometimes, parents will give volume levels special names that are cues for the child. As if in code,they indicate how loud a voice to use. For instance, in the library there is the “library voice,” outdoors there is the “outdoor voice,” and when inside there is the “indoor voice.”You can create your own cues to help your child keep the volume under control.
Without applying too much pressure, gently encourage your child to respond appropriately when adults and other children are speaking to them in public or at preschool. It can be effective to practice appropriate social greetings and responses with your child. This is also a good strategy when your child is ready to begin answering and using the telephone.
Do read the continuation of this series on child verbal development here.