The importance of speech and language development in early years

Andrew Silva, 18 Dec 2019

Speech and language development plays a critical role in a child’s social development, overall behaviour, literacy skills and the construction of their self-esteem. Speech and language are fundamental elements of our daily lives and are the tools we use to communicate and share our thoughts, ideas and emotions.

Speech and language development are especially important in the early years at it introduces children to the social world, allowing them to interact with others, form relationships and of course, learn. Child development does go beyond language development. However, a child’s capacity to use language effectively is a crucial feature of that development.

“The most intensive period of speech and language development for humans is during the first three (3) years of life, a period when the brain is developing and maturing” -TheCren

The first three years of a child's life are like a sponge - much is grasped. This is mainly because children absorb critical skills during these years and develop in a world that is rich with sounds, sights and language. Children and infants are in the vital age-group of speech and language development, meaning their brain is at its best state to learn essential skills and be exposed to language.

Newborns recognise their surrounding sounds in the first few days of their life. The tone of a parent's voice is one of the essential sounds for children as they recognise this and learn from the particular sounds they make. With this, parents and educators have a critical role in progressing children's speech and language development - it is like "monkey see, monkey do."

Children begin to make certain sounds as their speech mechanism and voice mature. These sounds will become apparent in the first few months of life.

  • 6 months - sounds or repetitive syllables are common
  • 12 months - simple words, may not know the meaning of the words
  • 18 months - will usually be able to say 8-10 words
  • 24 months - placing words together in sentences 
  • 3,4 and 5 years - child's vocabulary rapidly increases and begin to understand the rules of language

How do speech and language skills affect future development?

Speech and language skills are a fundamental part of a child’s early learning experiences. It can assist them throughout many different aspects of life, including:

  • School readiness: one of the most important measures of school readiness is being able to comprehend and communicate with others. Speech and language skills are critical for scaffolding a successful early learning experience for children.

  • Adult outcomes: if children don’t develop key speech and language skills from a young age, it can affect their mental health and employment opportunities for the future.

What to do if a child’s speech appears to be delayed: activities to encourage their development

If you have concerns regarding your child's language and speech development, you may want to seek a speech pathologist or therapist. Engaging with a professional will allow for a prognosis of any disorders your child may have that may be limiting them to develop at their full potential. They will be able to assist you with your child's communication and overall development. These health professionals will be able to evaluate your child with particular speech and language tests helping you overcome any potential problems.

We will also outline some simple activities below on how to encourage speech and language development in the early years.

Simple activities to encourage speech and language development

Age Group Activities
0-2 Years
  • Encourage children to make sounds such as “ma”, “da” and “ba” to see if they will say them to you. 
  • Pretend to have a conversation with your baby and talk back to them when they make funny noises or sayings.
  • Point out different colours and shapes when out and about 
  • Exaggerate gestures such as waving and pointing
  • Talk about animal sounds. This is a great way of getting your child to connect the sound to the animal.
  • Read to your child. We recommend books with large pictures and few words. Encourage them to participate by asking them what particular images are. 
2-4 Years
  • As they are getting older, it is important to speak clearly to children and model good speech.
  • Repetition is highly important for children. Repeating what your child says can help them develop certain speech and language skills.
  • Asking questions that include a choice, encouraging children to choose one. For example, would you like an apple or an orange?
  • Help your child learn new words in terms of their surroundings, such as different body parts, flowers and colours.
4-6 Years 
  • It is important to pay attention to your child when they talk to you as they are analysing your every move and want you to respond to them when you can.
  • Give your child praise when they tell you something and show them that you understand their words.
  • Help your child follow simple directions.
  • Use everyday surroundings and tasks to learn the language - for example, talk about foods on the menu, their texture, colour and taste when in the kitchen. 
  • A great way to encourage speech and language development is by grocery shopping - talking about what you buy, what you need, and different grocery items will allow them to develop essential language skills.

It is important that you are a central part of your child's learning experience. Assisting them with particular activities and supporting them throughout their development is crucial. At Young Academics, we support each and every child’s speech and language needs, ensuring our programs are tailored to individual requirements.

Do you have questions surrounding your child's language and speech development?

Have a chat to our friendly team on 1300 668 993.

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