October 2021: Language
Language Development and Child Lane
Child Lane supports families in their roles as their child’s first teacher. As children grow, they learn a lot from family engagement, from the environment around them, and from conversations and interactions. When it comes to language development, there are some practices that Child Lane encourages families to use.
Take turns chatting back and forth.
If your child is young, listen to their babbles and imitate them. If your child is older, answer their questions and ask them open ended questions in return.
Sing, chant, and read.
Songs, chants, and stories are great ways to help your child develop their language skills and learn new vocabulary. Consider making up songs or stories with your child in it. This helps children relate to other songs or books they’re exposed to.
Expand simple sentences.
When your child uses one or two words, such as, “One dog!” expand on their sentence by saying something like, “Yes, there’s one dog on your shirt!” This models more complex sentences and exposes them to new vocabulary.
Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month
October 1 marks the beginning of Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month. Children can’t be “taught” to be bilingual, just like you can’t teach your child to walk or smile. However, if children are expected to use different languages and are cared by individuals who speak different languages, they’ll be able to be bilingual. In the home, there are many practices that may help bilingual children develop their language skills.
Create natural exposure to both languages.
Natural exposure to new languages is the most important part of being bilingual. Reading a book, singing songs, and telling stories in other languages are excellent ways for children to practice their bilingualism. You can also point out words that sound similar in both languages. When a song comes on the radio, you can remind your child, “Music sounds like música, but music is how to say it in English and música is how to say it in Spanish.” Try to practice both languages with your child multiple times per day.
Pay attention to what your child is saying.
If your child tends to mix up languages, remind them of the word they’re using in both languages and pay attention the next time they use the word. Sometimes, children will be able to pick up words in different languages easier depending on the environment they’re in. For example, “teacher,” “naptime,” and “drop-off” are all words that might be easier for a child to learn during child care rather than at home.
Celebrate when your child uses different languages.
When you hear your child using more than one language, celebrate by telling them things like, “It’s great that you can speak more than one language. The more languages we know the more people we can talk to!” This makes learning new languages a fun experience that children can look forward to.
Here at Child Lane, we recognize and celebrate the unique backgrounds of all of our families. Many of our children come from homes that speak languages other than English. All families are encouraged to share their culture and describe important music, books, celebrations, and foods to staff and children.
Message from the Counselor
Language Development for Young Children
Learning language is a complex process for children, and it’s mostly shaped by life experiences. Parents and caregivers help babies and toddlers learn to communicate by building their language skills from birth. Singing, talking, and sharing stories is a simple yet very important routine to encourage a baby’s ability to communicate. As babies listen to voices, they will coo and gurgle trying to make the same sounds. Studies found that babies made more speech-like sounds during shared reading than during other playtime. Plus, adults were more responsive to babies’ sounds during shared reading, repeating and expanding babies’ vocalizations, than they were during other activities. These back-and-forth interactions are key for developing language.
As babies begin to use the same sounds consistently to identify an object, like “baba” for bottle or “juju” for juice, they also begin to use hand gestures. A baby will point, make sounds, and use their body to “tell” you what they want. When parents and caregivers label or expand on the baby’s early words and gestures, this helps build early communication skills.
Parents can often feel like life is on “repeat” when caring for a young baby. The repetition of daily routines, favorite songs, and stories may feel monotonous, but that repetition actually supports early language development. Studies found that parents who repeat words more often to their babies raise toddlers who have better language skills a year and a half later.
Additional studies have identified cognitive benefits associated with bilingual skills, especially from early infancy. Bilingual babies are learning two languages simultaneously, while also learning to distinguish between them. The flexibility of babies’ brains may be the reason they are able to master two languages and benefit cognitively. So parents, go ahead and “habla Español” or “parla Italiano” with your little one. Just remember that babies need equal exposure to both languages in order to become truly bilingual.
Another study worth mentioning looked at a group of mothers and babies as young as 10 months old. The study tracked how frequently mothers made comments about how they thought their babies were feeling based on the babies’ behavior. For example, if a baby grunted and frowned when he couldn’t reach a favorite toy, the mother might say, “Wow, you are so frustrated! That toy is really far away.” When researchers went back to assess the children at age 5, they found that mothers who had made more observations about their children’s feelings raised children with a greater ability to understand others’ thoughts and emotions. This supports what many parents and caregivers may already know- early and ongoing interactions with babies and toddlers make a big difference when it comes to learning language.
Los Angeles County Office for the Advancement of Early Care and Education
The Los Angeles County Office for the Advancement of Early Care and Education shared the following information for interested families. For more information, please contact Stefanie Ritoper at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (626) 583-5394.
For the first time in two decades the nature-themed “Parent & Me” class at Deane Dana Friendship Park and Nature Center in San Pedro will be in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and sign language. Class leader and park superintendent Marlene Yang has updated the class.
Also, California’s Department of Education teamed up with a nonprofit and other partners to create a new multilingual learning toolkit for teachers of children under five. The new website is a virtual library with more than 225 research-based strategies, tip sheets and videos, covering everything from family engagement to social-emotional development and literacy, to assist early educators teaching kids who are either English learners or dual language immersion students.