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Communication: A Building Block for Healthy Childhood Development

Communication is the act of exchanging information, but have you ever thought about what goes into it? Communication is never just limited to speech, so it is important to understand how your child interacts with you before he or she can speak words or sentences.

The language timeline

Before your little one learns to speak, she will begin to comprehend the language around her.In early childhood development, the focus is on building language production and language comprehension skills.

Your child will start communicating with you long before she can form a word. Crying to express hunger, pain, or discomfort is common. Babbling or cooing when pleased is another form of letting you know how she feels. Actual ability to produce words begins around 12 months, and by 24 months your child should have around 50 words in her arsenal.  Language production isn’t limited to verbal cues, however. Nonverbal cues, such as pointing and gesturing, are a large part of how your little one will let you know what she wants.

Language comprehension develops at a remarkable rate. When your child reaches 9 months, she will start to understand that some words refer to specific items. From 12-16 months, your little one will start to understand and respond to “where” questions. From months 18-30, she can answer yes/no and “what” questions, as well as understand over 300 words. From months 30-36, she will begin to answer much more complex questions around actions, specific people, and more.

Though these are rough guidelines, it is important to note that children develop at their own pace. What’s important is that you, as a parent, are engaging your child and offering her the support she needs to become an effective communicator.

How parents can help

To ensure the healthy development of communication skills, there are a few things parents can do:

--Always respond to your child’s efforts to communicate, no matter where he is in his development. This means responding to sounds, gestures, and looks from the very beginning. By engaging him early and often, you’rehelping your child build confidence while teaching him that communication is important. The more support you give, the stronger your child’s skills become.

--Remember that communication isn’t one-sided. Even before your child can speak, give him room to respond to whatever it is you’re saying. As you tell stories or ask questions of your little one, let him have the opportunity to interact with or answer you. Demonstrating that you value your child’s input encourages him to keep enhancing his skills.

--Elaborate on your child’s phrases. When he starts to communicate with words, repeat what he says back to him and elaborate to help further his knowledge. For example, if he points and says, “ball,” you can respond with “Ball? You want to play with your red ball?”

--Narrate your actions and routines throughout the day. This is an excellent way to build your child’s vocabulary. Don’t forget about the importance of reading to your child, as well!

--Keep requests simple, clear, and relevant to your little one’s development stage. Once your child has the skills to respond to your requests, begin with one-step instructions, like telling him to get his shoes. When he’s older, you can move to two-step instructions, like “Go to the kitchen and get a napkin.” As he develops, continue to increase the complexity of your requests.

--Before your child can speak, teach him nonverbal communication strategies such as sign language. These skills will help him communicate before he can use words. The ability to communicate nonverbally will decrease the frustrations you or your child may experience during conversation. If you do choose to use sign language, be sure to include the verbal cue with the nonverbal sign so that he understands the sign corresponds to the word. For more information check out this site: baby sign language.

There are many developmental markers to pay attention to when parenting a little one. To make these early years easier and more engaging, we developed Pooka Box. Pooka Box is a subscription service that delivers fun, thoughtful toys, games, and activities for your child to help with healthy growth and development. Check out our subscription options to learn how Pooka Boxes will keep learning fun for you and your child. Additionally, for the month of May, Pooka Box is running a donation initiative. For each box sold, we’ll donate one to Foster Source in honor of National Foster Care Awareness Month. Contact us to learn more!

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