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Creating the Environment for Oral Language Development
Creating the Environment for Oral Language Development

Before we begin, I realise this is a very broad topic. One that requires at least an entire book to cover. However, we don’t have a book so let’s stick to the essentials!

Firstly, how do we define 'oral language' without getting too technical? Simply put, oral language is the ability to verbally communicate our ideas and feelings. This allows us to share thoughts and make sense of the world around us. Crucial to a child’s development, Maria Montessori saw it as the foundation language and fundamental to reading and writing. 

Oral language develops naturally from infancy, and rather than being formally taught, simply requires nurturing and an enriched environment to allow the child to flourish.

Most importantly, it’s the role of both the parent and teacher to create this perfect environment, one that constantly provides the child opportunities to express themselves verbally. 

Predicting when your child will start saying their first words or forming sentences is always difficult. Generally, …

  1. “Children say their first words between 12 and 18 months of age.”
  2. “They begin to use complex sentences by the age of 4 to 4 1/2 years.”
  3. “By the time they start kindergarten, children know most of the fundamentals of their language, so that they are able to converse easily with someone who speaks as they do."
(Reference: Child Development Institute)

As mentioned above, this is very general guide and cannot be directly applied to every child. Some may experience slower oral development due to several different factors. However, this is a topic for another article completely!

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at ways to help your child’s language development:

  • Talk with your child as much as possible. This is the most important place to start. Talk about the day as you go along. Tell your child, for example, "Now it’s time for lunch. Can you taste the tomato and pasta? When we finish our lunch, we’ll clean up and read a story." Hearing correct sentence structures will help them learn the rules of language.
  • Limit screen time. If I asked you what you were doing at the age of 4 or 5, what would it be? Playing outside with friends? Brushing the hair of your favourite doll? Exploring the insects outside? Unfortunately, these days, more children are finding their entertainment watching Peppa Pig on an iPad. Research has shown that children younger than 2 should not be watching TV at all and older children to be limited to no more than 2 hours of screen-time per day. Granted, there are some educational programs for children, however they fail to interact or respond to the child’s social and emotional needs. 
  • Share your favourite books. It's never too early to read to your little one. Children who are read and spoken to a great deal during early childhood will have much greater vocabulary and better grammar than those who aren’t so it’s very important to expose children to as much language as possible from a very young age.
  • Enjoy music together. Music has a greater influence on a child’s language than you might think. Especially younger children, they love music and movement! Watch your child as they hear “Let it go” or “Twinkle little star.” Despite not having mastered the actual language yet, they begin to learn about the world around them and the rhythm of language.
  • Tell stories. One of my favourite memories during childhood were the stories my father used to tell me before bedtime. Every night I would listen to elaborate tales of mischievous imps in a world filled with adventure and child’s play. Sharing your own stories and imagination with your child is a precious thing. Why not encourage your child to join in and make a story together?
  • Follow the child. If your child seems interested in a particular picture in a book, keep talking about it. If they seem intrigued by an animal, show them more animals and talk about them too. Allow your child to explore and talk about their new favourite found interest as much as possible. You never know, you might have a little veterinarian sitting beside you! 
  • Never criticize your child's speech. Nobody likes to be discouraged, the same goes with children. Instead, of correcting any mistakes they make, repeat their statements back to them with the correct pronunciation or usage of words. 
  • Field trips! Not only are they exciting to go to with school, but a trip to the aquarium, the zoo or the museum with your parents is also a memorable experience. Field trips will open up a whole new world for them and give you ample of opportunities to talk to your child about what they’re discovering.

As you can see, creating the right environment for your child’s oral language development is extremely important, and setting them up with the right tools to succeed will help them tremendously on their Montessori journey. It is however, very simple, and by applying these basic principles to your child’s day will make a world of difference in the classroom.

By Eleanor Yee-Olano Date 2017/12/8
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