Today I have a guest post from the lovely Hannah at Budding Smiles. I have been a fan of Hannah’s blog for a long time now – I love her writing style and the topics she covers, and this post is no exception.
I am a linguist and always have been, I recognised and wrote letters and familiar words from a young age, always had my nose in a book back when I had free time and enjoy learning new languages – albeit not to an expert level! Therefore language is something I’m really keen to develop with Toby, not in a pushy “My kid can say 20 words and he’s only 1” kind of way, but so that as he grows up he is confident with words and language.
As a child I can remember that every time we visited my Grandparents my Grandad would give me a new word to learn – the two that stick in my mind are ‘Parallel’ and ‘Adjacent’ – He would teach me the word and the meaning then ensure that I remembered it before moving on to a different word. Toby is only 10 months old so he’s not going to be defining ‘parallel’ to me any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that language isn’t already forming somewhere beneath the surface.
I have used Makaton for a decade in my work with children with special needs and I am now taking that to the next step with a British Sign Language pack from Flashsticks. I sign and say basic words to Toby and in a totally non-bragging way I can tell you that it’s working! Unless Toby is really upset or tired he will sign ‘finished’ when he’s eaten enough and when I sign and say ‘milk’ without actually having any to show him, he smiles and claps in anticipation. Like many babies Toby likes waving and he does so in context, so if I ask him to say hello to someone then he will wave without me showing him first, which to me shows an understanding of the phrase “Say hello”.
My child is (probably) not a genius, my husband and I simply speak to him using correct language and he responds. I cannot stand it when I overhear parents saying things such as “Oh look, it’s a quack quack!” No, it’s a duck that says quack quack. If I ask Toby where the ducks are he goes to the living room window and points outside to the ducks, I then tell him that ducks say quack quack.
I’m not a speech therapist and I am very much aware from my previous career that children have different needs and abilities, but when it comes to babies I think it is really important to try and steer clear of the baby babble when it becomes a replacement for correct words. If Toby shouts “Ba” then I copy him, but we say “Thank you” not “Ta” and when he starts to make some sort of two syllable sound in the context of thank you I’ll know we’re getting close.
Language is vital and incorrect speech, grammar and spelling can be the difference between success and failure at school, in life and in work. Whatever Toby grows up to be is fine by me, as long as he has good morals and can hold a decent conversation!
What do you think? How do you develop language skills with your little ones? I’d love to hear from you with your tips.