Supporting your child's language development

With Claire Fouhy, Speech Language Therapist at Hutt City Kindergartens

Kia ora koutou,

As a speech-language therapist, I’m forever amazed at the journey children take from birth to five. Going from babbling and crying to speaking in sentences, telling stories, and even leading their friends in karakia kai at Kindergarten. Have you ever wondered how they do it?

At the moment it feels like there are endless ideas popping up in social media for activities to keep your tamariki learning and engaged while at home. Many of them look like fun, creative ideas to fill the house with laughter and learning. But for some of us, it can feel overwhelming and stressful and we don’t know where to start. 

If that’s you, you’re not alone and I want to encourage you to close down social media, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, and take a breath. To learn language your child does not need a three hour homemade play dough project using expensive coconut flour because that’s all you could find at the shop. 

From my bubble to yours, I want to share with you three tips supported by child-development research for keeping your child learning at home – and spoiler alert folks, you might already be doing them...

1. Read with your child.  Even just one book a day will be helping your child learn new words, learn to share their focus with another person, learn how books work and to enjoy them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read every page, if you don’t even read the words, just sharing the interaction is growing your child’s brain.  

2. Talk with your child. One of the best things you can do for your child’s language development is have back and forth conversations. Researchers are calling this “serve and return”, like a tennis match. See if you can keep the ball in the air for four turns each.

3. And perhaps most important of all: Look after yourself. This is not a normal time, and taking care of your own mental and emotional health is important for your child’s learning. In these uncertain times, not seeing your friends, workmates, extended whānau is hard. Be gentle with yourself and remember that if your child is feeling safe, loved, and cared for, they will be learning – it’s what their brains are designed to do. So take a break and breathe.

For more information about talking in the early years, check out Talking Matters who have some great videos - https://www.facebook.com/TalkingMattersNZ/

Take care everyone, you got this.

 Pictured below is me with my goddaughter talking about dirt for a few minutes.