To many school-age children, language and math are subjects learned in the classroom; the integral role of these skills in everyday life is sometimes overlooked. However, the thought processes required for language and math are the building blocks for nearly all other skills. The earlier a child begins to master these skills, the more adept they will be at future learning.
Language development involves both expression and comprehension. Language expression is the ability to produce sounds that are used to express a child's needs and thoughts, while language comprehension is the ability to understand others. Activities such as listening, singing, repeating, reading, and speaking all promote language development. A child's language develops rapidly when they are surrounded with both the spoken and written word.
Here are some things you can do to promote the development of language skills:
- Talk and sing to your children as you work around the house.
- When you are reading, read out loud if your infant is around.
- Talk to them using complete sentences.
- Keep maintaining eye contact.
- Encourage them to use rhyming sounds, like ma, da, and ba.
- Read stories to them so they can see, hear, and recognize new words.
- Talk to them before they go to bed. Discuss what happened that day, and talk about the plans for tomorrow.
- Identify colors when picking out clothes.
- Encourage your child to recognize symbols and attach them to words. Ask your child to look for certain items when you go shopping.
- Respond to their language, even when it does not make sense.
- Label items in their rooms so they associate the written word with the object.
- When riding in the car, start making up a story. Every time the car stops, the next person adds to the story.
- Give your child the daily newspaper and a pencil. Have them circle words they can identify.
- Give your child choices between a few objects, and discuss what they are and what they mean.
- Expand your child's vocabulary by finding new things to talk about.
- When traveling to new places, designate your child to be the navigator, keeping an eye out for street names, store signs, and restaurants.
- Write down several items on your grocery list for your child to find when you go to the store.
- Have your child write down topics they would like to discuss and put them in the glove compartment of the car. When the car ride gets boring or stressful, pull out a topic and have a one-on-one conversation with your child.
- Play word games that will help your child associate descriptions with objects.
Math skills are developed as children interact with objects. Concepts such as size, shape, form, numbers, sequencing, and grouping are all included in this category.
- Play hide-and-seek games.
- Give toys with bright colors and a variety of shapes.
- Instead of just handing over objects, count as you give them to your child.
- Help your toddler sort the laundry by color.
- Make connections with patterns in time, numbers, or shapes. Talk about similarities and differences.
- Recite finger-plays and songs that involve numbers.
- Use numbers and counting in real life situations, such as setting the table.
- Have your child measure ingredients during cooking.
- Make a chart to keep a record of specific occurrences. You can chart sunny days, phone calls, books that have been read, and other activities. Later, you and your child can spend time counting the events.
- Keep a height chart so your child can see growth and measurement in numbers.
- Help them understand the concept of time by creating a calendar and showing how time is divided. Use it to plan their activities so they can see them and learn to measure time.
- Send your child on a scavenger hunt in their room, the back yard, or at the park. Have them collect the items they find in a bag and identify the biggest/smallest, and tallest/shortest items.
- Designate your child as the official score keeper or banker when playing games. This promotes fairness as well as math skills.
- Give your child a weekly allowance. Identify guidelines for how the money can be used, and allow them to make spending and saving choices within the guidelines.
- Watch for numbers on license plates and have your child add them.
- Continue looking for ways to turn everyday activities into learning opportunities for your children. Allow them time and freedom to explore the world around them, and most importantly, show them that learning can be fun.
Keep in mind that the early years in a child's development are the most critical; whatever you can do to enhance the learning process in these years will provide a head start for your child in the future.
Activities to encourage speech and language development. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/parent-stim-activities.htm. Accessed August 6, 2014.
Developing early math skills. Zero to Three website. Available at: http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-development/supporting-early-math-skills.html. Accessed August 6, 2014.
Speech and language development milestones. National Institute on Deaf and Other Communicative Disorders website. Available at:
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/speechandlanguage.aspx. Updated April 30, 2014. Accessed August 6, 2014.
Your child's communication: kindergarten. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at:
http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/kindergarten.htm. Accessed August 6, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
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