This guide contains ten key practices that help early childhood educators enhance the language and communication development of infants and toddlers. Using these practices, early childhood educators can increase the amount and complexity of the language they speak to children, be more responsive to children’s vocalizations and speech, and engage in more conversations with children. These practices can be adapted to working with children of different language and cultural backgrounds to support the language and communication development of all children.

#4 Label It

Labeling an object or activity is one way of helping children learn the names of objects and actions in their world. When children hear adults use labels for objects or actions, they have an opportunity to learn about how words are used and may be more likely to use the same words when trying to communicate with others. Adults can help children learn the names of objects or activities by focusing on one object or activity at a time.

#3 Mix It Up

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.

#1 Get Chatty

Chatting with children is a great way to give them lots of examples of how we use words to share ideas and get information. The words adults speak to children make up the language “input” that children need to learn new words and ideas. The more input adults give children, the more opportunities children have to learn how to express themselves and understand what others are saying.

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