More is not necessarily more

A recent article by Lauren Lowry from Then Hanen Centre® got me thinking about the concept of more.

With regards to child development, many parents and professionals often view more as a good thing when trying to expand their child’s language. More therapy, more books, more extracurricular activities, more play dates, more of anything language related should in theory result in a child having a larger vocabulary, as well as a better head start for school. But, this article suggests that while parents should repeat common words frequently during the toddler years (quantity), it is important that they move towards quality during the preschool years. During the preschool years, children have learned many common words and are ready for more sophisticated words. Here are some ways to improve the quality of language input when communicating with your child:

  • Create new experiences with your child – Allow your child to join in while you are baking/cooking or working on a project. Comment on what you are doing and allow your child to participate when able. Try and incorporate a few new words, repeating them in different contexts and sentence structures. Think about going beyond just object names – you could use action words, describing words, or questions.
  • Follow your child’s lead during play. Research has shown the importance of joint attention that focuses on children’s interests rather than requiring children to refocus their attention. This means that children will learn a word more readily when their attention is directed at a particular object/situation than when an adult requires them to shift their attention to something else (that the adult may find interesting!).
  • Consider who your child communicates with – The Developmental Psychologist Vygotsky used the term ‘zone of proximal development’ to describe where children learn best. With respect to language, children will learn language best if their communicative partner uses language that is slightly beyond their current level. For example, if a 3 year old is speaking in 3-4 word sentences, a parent or caregiver may use sentences that are 5-6 words in length.

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