What is it?
Oral language development considers a child's ability to communicate effectively with others. It consists of the child's ability to understand and pronounce words, combine word parts to make new words (jump + ing = jumping), and combine words correctly to express ideas (I went to the park.) As the child grows, he or she develops an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the rules of spoken language. For example, a very young child might say, "I seed the mouses." A child with stronger oral language skills might say, "I saw the mice."
Why is it important?
With a solid oral language foundation, a child is better able to adapt to the school environment, communicate with teachers and peers, grasp new learning, and develop strong reading and writing skills.
What can we do at home?
Talk - Encourage lots of conversation with your young child! Be open to questions, and ask follow up questions. For example, when your child is talking about a playdate with a friend, ask, "What did you like best?" or "What would you like to do next time?" If your child makes a grammatical mistake, gently model the correction. For example, if your child says, "I goed to the playground." You could say, "Really? You went to the playground?" Also, don't be afraid to use rare words. Young children are word sponges!
Play - Encourage playtime activities that involve a lot of talking, such as dramatic play (having doll parties, setting up a town for toy cars, creating a pretend store or restaurant.)
Read aloud - Make time for reading aloud to your child daily. The more books that are read to your child, the better the oral language skills become! Choose from a variety of fiction and nonfiction books. Reading a wide range of materials helps develop word skills and background knowledge which not only helps your child understand and communicate well orally, it prepares your child for the academic challenges of school too.
Teach words for direction, space, and time - These types of words are very abstract to young children. Help your child develop an understanding of words that indicate direction (forward, backward, up, down, near, far), space (over, under, in, between, beside) and time (next, last, before, after). This can be done by providing one step directions ("Set the forks beside the plates.") and then gradually moving up to two or three step directions ("Set the forks beside the plates. Then, put the glasses near the forks. Last, have a seat across from your sister.") This can also be practiced with fun games like I spy (I spy something blue next to the window."), Simon says ("Simon says, 'Put your hands over your head.'"), or Mother, May I? ("Mother, may I take three baby steps forward?")
Encourage "big kid" words - Help your child learn to communicate personal needs, greetings, and farewells in a socially appropriate way (May I use the restroom? Can I play? Thanks for coming over.)