Communication and your 1-2-year-old
Communication skills in children develop within the first 3 years of their life, a time when the brain develops and matures. Most children are able to communicate their wants, likes and dislikes to parents (and others) when they are between 1- 2 years of age. By the time children are 2 years, many of them are able to say phrases or words clearly. They understand what is being said to them and also learn to reciprocate in context.
According to NIDCD’s (National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) study, children are able to recognize the words and sounds of their native language when they are of 6 months. By the end of their first year they even learn to say simple words, though they may not understand their meaning. When children are around 18 months, most of them are able to say around 8 to 10 words. By this time they are able to comprehend the meaning of spoken words. At the age of 2, children are able to understand even complex words or sentences and are able to express thoughts, actions and identify objects. Children also learn to role play or mimic actions, gestures and words of others at this age.
Some children learn to speak at an earlier age. Parents need to remember that each child is unique and their learning abilities and comprehension varies. Parents should not worry when they find thtat their child is not speaking words or phrases as well as other children of that age. Every child has a unique way of communication. While one child may use gestures and babbling, other kids of that age may use phrases or even sentences. However, if the parents feel that they child is relatively slow for his/her age, then they should talk to their doctor who may refer them to a speech-language pathologist. The child may need to be evaluated if the child’s speech and language development does not match the age specific milestone.
What parents can do: Helping children’s speech and development
Parents play a significant role in the child’s development of speech and language. The more time spent communicating with the child, the more the child will comprehend and speak. Though the child may not be speaking as much as expected, rest assured that they store a lot of what is being spoken to them. The child may respond to the parent’s communication in the form of expressions, gestures, monosyllables, or babbles.
Parents can do some simple things to help their children’s speech and development.
Build a daily conversation
Parents should often talk to their child and build daily conversations. Right from the time then child wakes up till the time he/she goes to bed, it is important that the child is conversed with in a language comfortable for the parent. It is better that parents stick to one language (namely native language) for communication with the child especially during those 1-2 yrs of age. Parents should talk naturally such as what the child does, hears, sees, etc. It is important that parents make it a habit to repeat a word a number of times (at least more than once) to enable the child remember the word. Research suggests that a child should have heard a word more than 500 times before it becomes a vocabulary for him/her.
Read a story
Reading a story aloud to the child is a good habit. It will help the child’s language development immensely. Reading the same story over and over again will help the child learn vocabulary at an early stage. The vocabulary learnt through repeated story reading will soon become a part of the child’s everyday speech.
Songs and educational videos
Parents should also watch educational videos, rhymes and ‘songs for kids’ along with their 1-2 yr old. This will help them identify objects; learn phrases such as actions, people and animals. Picturing the words in the mind is an important activity for the child’s cognitive and speech development. Parents should make it a habit to sing those songs and rhymes during feeds and baths. It will make these routines more enjoyable for kids as well as serve as a reminder.
Play and activities
It is also important that parents take time to play with their child especially with the educational toys. Educational toys and activities for children are designed to help the child’s cognitive, speech and language development. Blocks, puzzles, construction toys are some of the educational toys which parents can use creatively with their children.
What parents should be careful about…
Parents are aware that their children are learning speech and language from them. So whatever, children often hear their parents speak is what is learnt as accepted speech, actions and behavior. Children mimic their parents in behavior, language used, words spoken, tone used, actions and expression of emotions. Parents are the role models for their children. Therefore, how parents would like their child to speak, behave or express emotions highly depends on their own language, behavior and actions. Children at the age of 2 highly pick up words, actions and expression of emotions from their parents and others at home, irrespective of corrective techniques taught. Parents should keep in mind that the way they communicate to their child and others, play a greater role in their child’s communication skill.
Parents should help the child learn in a steady way. Parents should not try to inculcate any activity or learning process in a rigid manner. If the child is fussy or does not have the mood to participate in the learning process, parents should give the child some space. Whatever the efforts the parents take to help their child, they should watch for active or positive participation from the child. Parents should give time and space for the child to begin or respond to the learning process. It should be allowed and incorporated naturally. An important word of caution is that, parents should never compare their child with another child and mark their progress. Parents should appreciate their child’s uniqueness and help them grow steadily in their own pace.
Written by: Irene J
Edited by: Michael K. Davis, MD
- NIDCD (National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders), 2000, Speech and Language, National Institute of Health, NIH Publication, No. 00-4781, http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/speechandlanguage.html
- Hornsby. B, 1984. Overcoming Dyslexia, Johannesburg: Juta and Company Ltd.
- Plessis, S.D, retrieved 2010, Language Acquisition in Children: Talk to your child clever, http://www.learninginfo.org/language-acquisition.htm
Last Updated (Wednesday, 15 September 2010 12:42)