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How To Teach Young Children Language Basics


By Susan Calonge

Where do we find The Basics of Language?  

To uncover how language has evolved, we look to the past and get back to basics. How far back? Victorian England? Quaint. Keep going. Biblical days? Not far enough. The Dawn of Civilization? Yes! Simply put, “The Basics” is language. It is our communication with one another and what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Language is the communication of ideas. It’s speaking, listening, learning, and teaching, face to face.

How do you get The Basics?

You start by listening, then repeating, then speaking — sometimes with errors. When someone corrects you, you learn. Then you listen more, you speak more, and then you teach language to another. It’s important to be interactive.

“…talk WITH your infants and toddlers, not AT or simply AROUND them. We need to be holding conversations with babies – back and forth, responsive exchanges in which we leave pauses and listen and respond meaningfully to their communications (verbal and nonverbal), ”  says Mary Benson McMullen,  contributing author of Developmental Appropriate Practices: Focus on Infants and Toddlers, during a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) online chat.

When should you learn The Basics?

Birth to age 5 is the critical time. According to Tanya Christ and X. Christine Wang, authors of the Young Children article What the Research Tells Us About Vocabulary Instruction in Early Childhood,  “It is important for children to develop knowledge of words’ meanings from a young age because vocabulary development has an impact on their reading comprehension and academic success as they get older (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin 1990). Young children are amazing word learners. During the preschool years, they quickly acquire extensive vocabularies (Carey 1978).

Researchers have concluded that between the ages of 12 months and 18 years, children learn on average 10 words a day if they hear lots of new words used in their environment (Bloom 2002).… Young children need to be exposed to new vocabulary to acquire word knowledge, and exposure in different contexts supports their acquisition of nuanced understandings of words’ meanings (e.g., McKeown 1985).  It is important to note that children learn words that represent familiar concepts through … media; however, they do not tend to learn the meanings of words representing unfamiliar concepts (Dockrell, Braisby, & Best 2007) unless teachers pair direct instruction with viewing activities (Neuman, Dwyer, & Neuman 2008).”

Take every opportunity to give your child The Basics.

 Susan Calonge is a proud mother of 3 and was an early childhood educator for 11 years. She is author of Tantrum Tamers: ideas to redirect behavior through conversation and games as an alternative to electronic devices. 


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