Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

"Out of the Mouths of Babes"

Babies are Born to Learn! From the moment of conception, we are preparing our children to be lifelong learners. My name is Debbie Kunz, and I am the coordinator of the Parents as Teachers program. As a contributing writer to this blog, my posts will focus on kindergarten preparation as it applies to the first three years of life. The focus of this week will be language development.

From the moment a fetus begins to hear in the womb, it is beginning to tune in to language - from the patterns of speech to the rhythms to the tonal quality. Babies learn that humans communicate their thoughts, feelings and needs through speech. They also learn that a healthy command of language will assist them in their adult lives.

How, then, as parents and caregivers, do we encourage healthy language development?

A few ideas are listed below:
Make time for face-to-face communication -

* give the baby time to respond; you are teaching her the 

art of communication

* take turns with your baby and honor what she has to say, providing plenty of time for the baby to respond.
* As your baby watches your mouth, he will learn how to shape his mouth for appropriate speech

Sing Together!!

**Singing together is FUN! The baby is learning while playing, which is the essential "work" of early childhood
**Songs use repetition, which strengthens the child's neural connections.
**Songs teach the child how to communicate with gestures, an important step in expressive speech for young children
**Singing enables the child to learn the individual phonemes of speech

Use "Parallel Talk" and "Stretch Talk"

**Tell the child what he/she is doing to make the speech relevant
**When the child says "Dog" and you say "Yes, you see a fluffy dog," you are stretching the child's speech and increasing his/her verbal competence
**As you interact verbally with the child about what he/she is doing, you are teaching the child about verbal problem-solving
**Since the child is egocentric, he/she will pay attention better to speech that is centered around what he is doing

Read Together

**The most important predictor of literary competence, reading together is critical!
**Reading brings routine to the child's world, the structure around which allows the brain
to create optimal connections
**Allow the child to manipulate the book and respond to his interest. Don't worry about reading all of the text in the book. Label pictures and tell your child what he is seeing.
**Answer any question that your child poses. Give concise answers and allow the child to continue asking questions if necessary.
**Hold your child on your lap while you read to send important messages of security, trust and affirmation
**Reading increases vocabulary, bonding, language awareness, context/knowledge of the world and empathy

Have fun making language an important part of the child/caregiver relationship! Your efforts will reap rewards as you see your child enter school with the confidence and competence to be a lifelong learner.

Images in order of appearance from the following websites off google images:
www.the-essential-infant-resource-for-moms.com (first two)

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