Language acquisition is one of the many developments a young child goes through from infancy until preschool. While children will often imitate both the actions and words commonly used around them, activities to develop cognitive skills will assist your child in developing language. Strengthening your child's cognitive and motor skills through practice and games will make his ability to imitate your words a little easier.
Developing Cognitive Attention
Developing your young child's ability to focus attention is an important first step in the cognitive development necessary for language acquisition. Early on, you can help your baby develop attention skills through practicing holding eye contact. Creating and maintaining eye contact with your child can be achieved through facing your child, drawing attention to your own facial features or using an object near your face to attract your child's attention. Once your child can maintain eye contact with you, developing the ability to follow an object with his eyes is a second step for your child's development. Mobiles and pictures can help to attract your child's attention while moving objects can help your child practice holding an object in his gaze.
Another precursor to language development is developing your child's ability to imitate both movements and sounds. Imitation of movement allows your child to continue to develop eye contact and interact with you. Practice sessions, involving sound or visual objects, may include clapping, scribbling or playing with toys. Additionally, your child should begin to imitate your verbal sounds during play. This may include developing sounds for toys like trains, boats and trucks or imitating sounds for household objects like clocks and phones. Your child may also start to imitate the words and phrases you or others around him say frequently.
Your child will begin to say consonant sounds first, and the most common first sounds are p, d, m, w, h and n. Your child will begin with babbling and consonant sounds prior to speaking any first words. To begin to develop words, you may model words and phrases for your child. When modeling words, repeating single words in short phrases helps your child identify pronunciation and meaning. Holding objects next to your mouth as you pronounce their names may help your child visualize the way his mouth should move as he speaks.
Play and Routine
Play time also offers an opportunity to develop your child's cognitive and language ability. Toys with sounds or blocks that interlock are beneficial to your child's cognitive growth. Games like peek-a-boo and patty cake also work to develop your child's motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Playing with puzzles gives your child practice in hand-eye coordination, and provides you the opportunity to practice words related to playing and game pieces. Practicing language in daily routines reinforces word meaning and gives your child the opportunity to practice word pronunciation. For example, you can practice words involved in getting dressed, eating and getting reading to leave the house.
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