Parents often think they don’t need to talk to their babies, because their babies aren’t talking yet. A parent’s engagement and involvement with a baby is so crucial to language development. A baby hears words, songs, and sound patterns from parents. As a baby babbles and coos, parents respond and reinforce what is being said, giving the child feedback as to what types of sounds and words get reactions.
Research from the University of Missouri’s College of Education found that children exposed to fewer words by age 3 have a decreased school readiness at 1st grade and were three times more likely to develop depression by 3rd grade. “If children already are experiencing language and subsequent social and academic deficits by the first grade, chances are they will continue to fall further behind in school each year, which can lead to negative self-perceptions and depressive symptoms by third grade,” according to Keith Herman, a professor at the University of Missouri.
As a parent, what can you do to help your child’s speech-language development?
- Visit your public library for story time and fantastic children’s programming
- Read to your child each night
- Start the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge
- Sing finger play songs with your child like Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Rock out to your favorite tunes with your child
- Encourage your child to dress-up
- Explore the outdoors
- Engage with other children
- If you have concern about your child’s speech-language development, and your child is younger than 3, then contact your pediatrician or your community’s birth to three program.
- If your child is older than 3 and you have concerns, contact your local public elementary school.
Simple daily engagements and interactions you have with your child each day lay the foundation for language development that benefits your child in years to come.
Jann Fujimoto, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of SpeechWorks LLC, a provider of on-site speech therapy in Delafield, Dousman, Hartland, Watertown, Oconomowoc, and Pewaukee. SpeechWorks helps children become confident and competent communicators.