When my oldest daughter was 13 months old, I asked my husband how many words he thought she had.

“Maybe 50-60?”

I thought he was being optimistic! 30 was my guess. Well, we decided to sit down and write down all the things she could say. She had 110! From the normal ball, gone, baba to the more arbitrary chalk (kork), funny, oh dear to the more complex upstairs (upastairs), Kaiser (my parents’ dog), Cedric (Cedic). We were astonished. Many people were astounded at her vocabulary and clear articulation.

 

With our second daughter, her vocabulary developed a lot slower and at a more “normal” rate. But now, sitting at 18 months, she has way over 50 words. She is still my baby in many respects (our oldest was nearly a big sister at that age!) but what has surprised me is that her comprehension far exceeds her vocabulary. I can ask her to get her socks and she will toddle off and come back with both, even though they were in different places. She has blown me away when I have instructed her to do something or asked her something and she’s understood it. It’s strange for me to have a child that, although is unable to express herself like our first, still has an impressive understanding.

 

I put speech milestones into a Google search and here’s what I managed to find. According to Healthline, toddlers of 18 months should have a vocabulary of ten words. Our youngest had a vocabulary of 30ish by 17 months. (We won’t even go into how many words our eldest had at that age!) Some of her words now include grader (we’ve had a TLB on the property) and mask (2020 toddler).

 

Language acquisition is such an important part of life! According to the website Little Sponges, when children “are regularly exposed to sophisticated vocabulary in context, their reading and comprehension levels rise drastically.” That’s incredible and has long-term effects!

“A child who has a larger vocabulary is better able to understand more of the context surrounding those words. This makes it easier for them to comprehend the material, process its meaning, and commit the material to memory.”

 

I found the following on the website Talk Nua.

“There’s strong evidence to connect vocabulary with your child’s later language and cognitive development. Having a large vocabulary at 24 months, has been linked to stronger performance on measures of maths, reading, and behaviour at age 5. Your child’s vocabulary growth is considered to be directly related to their overall success at school. The size of your child’s vocabulary predicts her ability to learn to read.”

 

Well, if that doesn’t make you want to invest in language development, I don’t know what will! The first 24 months are SO important! What a responsibility we have as parents to make sure that our children learn to comprehend and express themselves!

 

The question is, how can we go about this? Here are a few things you can do to help your child along.

 

1. Talk to them

It sounds pretty ridiculous because it’s so obvious, right? But from newborn, speak to your baby. They learn that they are part of an interaction. According to Healthlinebabies learn to “social smile” because they are “learning social cues, and how to get the attention of caregivers.” They begin to coo and gurgle back at you from really early on. As they get older, they learn to talk by imitation and will repeat the sounds that you make. They learn to interact and speak based on your interaction with them.

 

2. Read to them

I cannot stress this point enough! They learn a multitude of new words. They are exposed to thoughts, ideas, emotions and vocabulary that may be out of their current experience. Someone once told me that she read to her first son but not much to the second (because, second child!) and she said the difference was noticeable! According to Edarabia, reading not only develops language but sets them up for life (yes, life!) by improving concentration and memory, developing empathy, helping them discover the world, exercising the brain, enhancing their imagination, improving their performance at school, developing thinking and language skills and just being a source of entertainment!

 

3. Use proper words

Use the correct terminology for things. The odd baby talk is okay but don’t let your speech to them be made up of ta, doo-doo, baba, milkies, nana and so forth. If you child can learn to say ‘bikit’ or ‘cookie’, they can learn to say ‘pees’ (please) instead of ‘ta’. If your child can say ‘ta’, they can learn ‘tanks’ (thanks). Teach them – you’ll be surprised at what they manage!

 

4. Don’t speak down to them

Children learn to talk, as we have already established, based on your interaction with them. If you speak baby talk and two-word sentences, that’s what they will learn. If you speak full sentences to them, they will understand from an early age. Although they may not have more than a couple of words, their comprehension may vastly exceed what they are able to say. If there is one thing I learnt in teaching, it was this: never underestimate the capabilities of a child. Rather start with high expectations and lower to their ability should you need to than start with low expectations and never know their full capabilities!

 

6. Use everyday opportunities

Make the most of everyday opportunities. Talk when you’re in the car and point out what you see. Discuss your feelings. I made an audible sound of frustration at the traffic once and my daughter of two asked what was wrong. I told her I was frustrated because we were stuck in traffic. Every time we sat in a line of cars after that, she’d ask me if I felt frustrated. Talk to your kids in the bath and over meal times. Read before bed. Sing songs. And don’t be afraid to give them instructions. That way, they learn colours and the names of objects and shapes incidentally. Be aware of how you instruct. For example, instead of saying “Bring me that shirt…no, not that one. The other one,” you could say, “It’s too cold to wear your red shirt today. Fetch me your pink, long-sleeved shirt…you know, the one with the heart on.” Perfectly normal sentence packed with lots of vocab!

 

I have put very little conscious effort into extending my daughters’ vocabulary and comprehension. What I have done is put the above into place. With very little effort, you will be amazed at the capabilities of that little brain!

 

Photo Credit: Nappy

 

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