The first three years of life are when the building blocks for thinking, learning, language, social, and emotional development are laid. They are also a time of tremendous change. During these years, it is important to surround your baby with language – whether auditory, visual, or both – to provide them with the best opportunities for language development.
As infants bond with their caregivers, and as their vision becomes focused, they want to explore the world more and more. Infants are very dependent on adults to surround them with language and help them explore the world around them.
During the second year, as children are able to move around more on their own, they become more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Their growing ability to form simple phrases – whether spoken or signed -- helps them develop greater independence.
Children experience huge changes in thinking, learning, social, and emotional development during their third year. When adults encourage them to continue to explore their world, children are able to make more sense of it, and their confidence and self-esteem begin to develop and grow.
- When was the environment quiet?
- What background noises did you hear?
- How close was the child to the person speaking?
- Was there eye contact or another sign that the child was paying attention to the person speaking?
Every environment is different. At home, common noises include the television and media, children playing and family members talking, and household noises like doors shutting, water running, etc. Each of these noises may also come with visual distractions. Public places such as libraries, churches, recreation centers, grocery stores, shopping malls, and parks all have auditory and visual distractions. In all environments it is important to remember that you need to be close to your child to communicate effectively. For toddlers, the distances may increase, but for communication to work try to stay within four feet of your child when communicating with them.
Access language: Make sure you can be seen and heard effectively by using heightened pitch, exaggerated intonation, facial expressions, and repeating words and phrases.
Talk about everyday experiences: Respond to each of your child’s communication attempts with more details. Example: “You saw a truck? Yes, I saw it too. It was big and red and going so fast!” Give your child a bit of extra “wait time” to respond to your spoken or signed communication.
Learn from older children and adults in their environment: Make sure your child has many opportunities to play with other children.