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Optimizing your child’s potential: Language development

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Optimizing your child’s potential: Language development

Learning language begins at birth. Babies start expressing themselves with their first cry. Speech is more than just being able to make sounds. It is a system of symbols that your child uses to learn, express himself and exchange information. Learning about your child’s language milestones can help you identify and intervene early if there are any delays.

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Parents play a significant role in the development of speech. While the age at which a child starts talking is often genetically determined, the amount of time spent interacting and talking with a child has a strong influence on the rate at which a child picks up new vocabulary. Increasingly, research has shown that the excessive and early exposure to gadgets and screen activities may affect the acquisition of language and be associated with attention problems. Here are some simple ways to nurture your baby's language development:

  • Talk to your child and use any opportunity to tell them what you are doing, e.g. when feeding, bathing and even in the car.

  • Reading helps language development and is a good way to interact with your child. It is never too early to read to your baby and early reading is a good predictor of future literacy skills in children.

  • Music helps children learn through rhythm and actions. Children often pick up many of their early words through nursery rhymes and action songs.

  • Make up stories and allow your child to join in your make believe stories. 

  • Use of gadgets, television and screen toys should be limited. The American Academy of Paediatrics guidelines states that children younger than 2 should not watch television at all, and that children older than 2 view no more than two hours of quality programming a day. Television and screen activities are one-way communication tools and can never replace the real human touch and sounds.

 

Be alert and if your child is not meeting his or her language developmental milestones, please discuss this with a health professional. Early intervention of speech and language delays often helps a child catch up earlier and may help prevent further difficulties in learning later.