Talking to children is one of the most important ways adults can help them learn to communicate and develop strong language skills. By talking with them, adults provide children with language “input” that children can then use as models for how to talk. The more types of language input that children receive, the more their language skills can develop and grow over time. When adults “mix it up” by using lots of different types of words and grammar in their speech to children, children benefit by learning to use more complex and varied language.
What Research Shows
- Repeated and varied exposure to unfamiliar words, along with meaningful contexts (e.g., pictures, verbal explanations) helps children learn new words.13
- Children whose teachers speak with more complex sentence structures have better understanding of complex, multi-clause sentences.14
- Using words from a child’s home language may help children to learn words in English.15
Working with Infants and Toddlers
- During playtime or mealtimes, introduce new vocabulary by using rare or uncommon words (e.g., “I have a big appetite. I am eating a lot of food today!”).
- Repeat unfamiliar words in different contexts and on different occasions.
- Give children verbal explanations for unfamiliar words.
- Use sentences that have multiple clauses when talking with children (e.g., “Can you put the blue ball in the box under the table?”).
- If possible, incorporate words from children’s home languages into the daily routines (e.g., when counting the number of children at the table, “We have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 friends today. Let’s count in Spanish. Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco!”).