Language isn’t just about stringing words together; it’s above all about the desire to communicate.
“Language isn’t just about stringing words together; it’s above all about the desire to communicate,” highlights Isabelle Meilleur, a speech therapist at the Centre de réadaptation en déficience physique Le Bouclier, an institution specialized in the adaptation and rehabilitation of people with physical disabilities. “Language development will therefore affect many aspects of your child’s life. A toddler or preschooler who is in control of language is more easily understood, and this lets him join a conversation or change the subject if he so wishes. Language also helps your child put words to his emotions.”
A child who is able to express himself well will have more harmonious relationships. “This is why children who have trouble with language tend to be more shy, as they are aware of their limitations,” notes the speech therapist.
Furthermore, by hearing and using words, your child will better understand them and become aware of the sounds used in his mother tongue. This will help prepare him for reading and writing since it will help him make the link between sounds and letters later. He will also more quickly understand the sentences of a text. “A solid knowledge of the written language will be easier if the child has developed a solid foundation for the spoken language before starting school,” adds Meilleur.
This is what Isabelle noted about her daughter Léa. “Léa learned how to talk very quickly. Now at school, she has a good vocabulary, and when she writes, she has no trouble structuring her sentences or using punctuation. Since she speaks very well, she knows how to write.”
Books to stimulate language
When your child looks at a book with you, he discovers new words and the basics of written language: we read from left to right, we turn pages, the letters on the page correspond with sounds and have a meaning, etc.
Start showing him books with simple pictures, contrasting colours and little text from his very first days. When you imitate the sounds of animals and objects (“Meow” for a cat, “Choo-Choo” if you see a train…), you’ll spark your baby’s interest and motivate him to reproduce the sounds.
When your toddler starts to walk and explore his world, he will particularly enjoy picture books. You can then take some time to name the pictures and ask him to point to specific elements with his finger: “Show me the cow,” “Where is the car?” etc.
As he grows, he’ll become more interested in themed books that have a connection to his daily life, such as books about bath time, nap time, personal hygiene, trips to the park, and so on. Don’t hesitate to ask him questions about the story or characters, and to encourage him to react to what he sees and hears. He’ll develop his vocabulary and practice pronouncing new sounds. In other words, he’ll develop his language.
Simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end now become more interesting. Your child will also start to identify with characters in a story and enjoy book series that feature the same “heroes” (e.g.: Caillou, Paddington Bear, Thomas the Train…). Later, longer and more complex stories will help him become familiar with the narrative structure of a story. Since his imagination is developing, feel free to ask him to invent the continuation of a story. This will encourage him to speak and build sentences himself.