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Encouraging Language Development in Your Preschooler

Overview

Children's language development is likely to progress faster when they are often given the chance to interact with both children and adults.

Talking with other children

Children who often play with others who are about the same age usually gain expressive language skills sooner than those who have contact only with adults. Young children speak very directly and simply. This helps other children learn speech.

Talking with you and other adults

Children build and improve their speech and language skills by talking with their parents and other adults. These discussions also help children form mental images of people, events, and places, which are important milestones in thinking and learning. Talking with adults introduces proper grammar and complex sentences to children.

But your child can pick up poor grammar too. Your child learns from even very simple conversations. During ages 4 to 5, your child is likely to learn many swear words. Your child will hear adults swear when they are angry or stressed. And your child will find that people react strongly whenever your child uses swear words. Try to be a good role model and not use swear words. And try to get your child to not use swear words.

Parents often gain more insight into their children's feelings and thoughts as language skills increase. Sometimes conversations with young children turn up important fears or anxieties that parents can help manage. Keep calm when your child tells you something disturbing. Children don't always express themselves using the same language as adults. For example, a child may say "Johnny wants me to jump off the building at school." But the child may really mean that he is afraid of using certain equipment on the playground.

Reading to your child

Reading to your child every day helps them develop speech and language skills. Reading together also offers a time of quiet comfort and bonding.

  • Choose books that show lots of action. Ask your child to point to familiar items and make the sounds that go with them. Say "Point to the fire engine" and "What sound does the fire engine make?"
  • Visit the library on a regular basis.

Limiting screen time

Limit screen time to 1 hour a day or less. TV, videos, and video games don't seem to encourage or support children's development of speech or language skills. In general, spoken words make little impression unless they are in the context of a conversation with someone the child knows and cares about.

Credits

Current as of: September 20, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics

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