The most important part of language learning is the interaction between a child and their parent. You play an integral part in your child’s speech and language development. You help your child learn language by talking about what they are doing while they are exploring the world around them. Let’s think about your preschooler’s speech and language development and how you can create a language-rich environment in your home.
The words we say are made up of speech sounds. The following sounds are often still developing at the age of 3 and 4: r, v, l, sh, ch, th, may say s or z with a lisp. A 3 year old is usually understood 75% of the time and a 4 year old is understood 100% of the time.
Most 3 and 4 year old children have had a language explosion and have become quite conversational. They are talking about what they see, how they feel, what happened yesterday, and what is coming up. They are talking about what happened when you weren’t there and telling imaginative stories. Your child may start to say, “Remember when we…..” They are asking a variety of questions and are often asking “why.”
It makes a difference how you talk and how you respond during different interactions. Here are some ideas on how to create a language-rich environment for your preschooler:
1. Comment on Everything. Use words and ideas that go along with routine activities (e.g., bath time, getting dressed, bedtime) and think about commenting on not so routine activities (e.g., wrapping a present, seeing a ladybug, seeing a broken window)
2. Be an Echo. Repeat what your child is saying using the correct words and sounds. You don’t have to have them repeat it. Just let them hear the correct way of saying a particular sentence or word.
3. Use BIG Words. Expand vocabulary by using different words that mean the same thing. For example, big could be huge, large, gigantic, and enormous.
4. Ask “I wonder” Questions. Be mindful of how many comments versus questions you use to help maintain the conversation.