A mind once stretched with a new idea is forever enriched
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Language development from the Montessori perspective begins at 18 weeks. That is, 18 weeks after conception. That is when an unborn child begins to hear.
How do we foster a love of language in a child? The Montessori approach side steps the flash cards and “baby genius” type videos and instead turns to a more holistic approach.
Language is the most beautiful cultural tradition we pass down to our children. From the earliest days a small baby can be soothed with the recognizable voice of a loved one. From those early beginnings, the whole family plays a critical role in a young child’s language development.
Reading to a child is essential for good language development, but did you know that holding a child gently but firmly (such as hugged while reading) will cause the child’s brain to release serotonin? This is the body’s sleep/happiness drug. Exposing your child to a wide range of printed text such as simple story books, non fiction books such as National Geographic and poetry will start your child on the path to a life long love of language. Don’t give up if your child does not sit still, or seem interested in the book. Try a good variety to find your child’s interest.
The same goes for singing. Your child does not know that you are a terrible singer. They have loved your voice since before they met you. Sing short songs such as nursery rhymes or make them up. Have your child do some actions.
I’m writing this post one, because language development is a passion of mine, but also because Quentin has advanced language skills for his age and we often get questions about what we did to get him to speak like that.
My answer is the same every time. We did nothing. No flash cards. No crazy DVD’s. We just speak to him. All day long. Every day. I try to get the skeptics to see it a different way. What if you dropped out of the sky and landed in a foreign country. A country so foreign that you couldn’t even begin to recognize or understand the language. How would you learn to communicate? You would have people speak slowly to you. You would have them repeat words. You would get them to use lots of hand gestures. You would immerse yourself in all forms of the language.
This is what we did with our boys.
Everywhere in the house there is language. Music, books, singing, talking. We are also the primary voices that Quentin listens to. He does not watch any media.
When we talk to him, we talk slowly if the concept we are talking about is new. We use REAL words. There are no “doggy’s” or “fishy’s” or “bubbas” here. But there are dogs, (and even Dalmatians) and goldfish and bottles. Even when baking, we use the opportunity to expand and enrich Quentin’s vocabulary.
“What is that?” Those three little words are the key to a hole world of language.
I recently had the extreme pleasure of connecting online with Nahal, a mother of a 1 1/2 year old boy, and a Paediatric Speech and Language Pathologist. Nahal is also the founder of Coos Babble Talk. Like me she is passionate about introducing language to children, but unlike me she is a professional. If you are in the California area, Nahal hosts group classes for children and their loved ones that focus on introducing language comprehension and expression through play. Regrettably I am not in the California area and so I seek out her website and her Instagram feed for inspiration regarding language activities to try with Quentin.
Since most parents know the importance of books and such, I asked Nahal for some other ideas to keep in mind when communicating with your child.
Some unexpected things parents can do to encourage early language development:
1) imitate your child – Children learn imitation through you. Imitating actions turn into imitating language
2) Look at your child, make eye contact when cooing, babbling, or talking.
3) Keep it Simple – Focus on common verbs and nouns that will help express a want or need. “I Want Ball!”
Thank you so much Nahal for your input with this and for your beautiful blog.
There is literally a whole world of language out there. The Montessori message in all of this is don’t underestimate your child. If you want them to say Dalmatian to you, you have to say Dalmatian to them.
The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything