How to Improve Your Child's Language Skills
Language skills form an important part of an individual’s personality. Here are some ways to develop the same in your child.
By Parama Gupta
Developing good language skills involves fine-tuning listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities. A child picks up all these abilities at different stages of childhood and it is important to facilitate their development through proper guidance.
Although language development is a lifelong process, parents need to lay its foundation during their child’s early years. Here are some age-wise tips and activities to help your child acquire good language skills.
Infanthood (0 months to 1 year)
- Keep talking to your baby even if age doesn’t permit her to engage in meaningful communication.
- Respond with enthusiasm when your child babbles or coos. This will capture her attention, and help her learn to pick up and interpret sounds better and faster.
- Show colourful pictures in books or magazines and talk aloud with great energy.
- Play songs that are soothing to the ears.
Toddlerhood (1 to 2 years)
- At this stage, your child begins to learn words by listening to others around him. So, talk to your child as much as possible.
- Speak as many words as possible in a loud voice to draw your child’s attention and make her listen. Irrespective of whether your child responds or not, keep conversing with him.
- Create flash cards with names of different objects written in big and colourful fonts. Say aloud the names of these objects and make your child repeat.
- Children aged three years are eager to speak, but use short sentences. So, make sure that you do respond when your child talks to you and keep the conversation going. But, while doing all this, remember to use age-appropriate language and short sentences.
Preschool (3 to 5 years)
- Make your child recite nursery rhymes with actions and expressions. Try and explain the meanings of words and situations in the rhymes. You can also use objects in the house, both to double up as props and to explain what the rhymes are about.
- At this stage, your child also begins to understand stories. So, read storybooks together and have storytelling sessions every night. Occasionally, exchange roles and let your child be the storyteller while you become the listener.
- Get picture books for your child to read and make sure that both of you read aloud the books together, not just once but several times.
- Have frequent conversations with your child on topics of his interest.
Primary School (6 to 9 years)
- Introduce your child to magazines and comic books for children. This will develop her interest in reading. If your child shows the inclination to devote more time to reading, encourage her to read short articles in the newspaper every day and note down new words and phrases.
- Get your child to develop the habit of listening to the daily news on the TV or radio. To facilitate voice modulation skills, ask her to read aloud from a book or newspaper for a few minutes every day.
- Teach her how to look for the meanings of words in dictionaries. Devote some time to discuss the meanings of new words your child encounters and explain how these words can be used in different contexts.
Preteens (10 to 12 years)
At this stage, your child can engage in language development activities more independently than before with occasional guidance from you.
- Reinforce the habit of reading newspapers for at least an hour every day. Also, encourage your child to continue the practice of noting down new words and phrases, and their meanings in a notebook.
- To make learning interesting, play word games like scrabble and solve crosswords. This will also increase his vocabulary.
- Instead of restricting herself to schoolbooks, encourage your child to go online to learn more. There are several websites where she can find exercises related to English grammar. Solving these exercises will help her improve her language.
- Be alert to your child’s grammar and language mistakes. When she makes one, correct her immediately.
Teens (13 to 18 years)
- As your child enters her teens, make sure that she devotes a lot of time to reading by introducing her to a variety of books of different genres such as popular classics, detective fiction, humour, fantasy and so on. Ask her to pay attention to the way sentences are formed, words and phrases are used.
- Make her apply the learnings from English textbooks she reads in school to her extensive reading. For example, she can identify literary devices such as similes, metaphors and idioms in the novels or poems she reads at leisure and even use them in her own speech and writing.
- To gain proficiency in language, expose your child not only to a wide variety of reading materials, but also encourage her to develop the ability to express herself and unleash her creativity through writing. You can do so by asking her to maintain a diary of daily events or by participating in writing contests.
- Download famous speeches, interesting and educative talk shows, and documentaries from the Internet and watch or listen to them together. To test your child’s listening skills, organise quiz sessions based on these programmes.
It doesn’t take any specialised training for parents to guide their child towards developing better language skills. All you need is a combination of interesting activities and the ability to regularly devote sufficient time. No matter which field your child pursues for higher studies, good language skills will always come in handy and reflect a well-rounded personality. So, make sure that you help your child develop good language skills.
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