"At about a year and a half, the child discovers another fact, and that is that each thing has its own name. This shows that, from all the words he has heard, he has been able to single out the nouns, and esepecially the concrete nouns. What a wonderful new step to have taken! He was aware of being in a world of things, and now each of these is indicated by a special word."
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
The best thing about language development is that it happens so naturally. Our children are picking up on what we are saying - words, sounds and meanings. Montessori once said to surround the child in intelligent conversation. All we really have to do is talk.
Otis is at the stage where he recognises the things around him, that the things in his environment have names. He is at the point and name stage. As Dr Montanoro (in Understanding the Human Being) puts it, there is a "sensitive period for naming things". She suggests that if parents "respond to the hunger for words in an appropriate way, they can give their children a richness and precision of language that will last a lifetime..."
But how to respond you may ask. I know most parents already read to their children. Here are a few other things we've been doing with Otis for language development.
Playing barn. Otis has a basket of farm animals and will play here alone or with others. It's simple play. If I am with him I will tell him the name of the animal and the sound it makes. He's also learning a lot about animal behaviour as we show him how animals move and interact.
Basket of animals. Most children have an affinity for animals and Otis is no exception. He has three animals in this basket kept on his shelves. We name the animal as he pulls them out. We sometimes make the animal sound or Caspar might act out/pretend to be the animal. This is a nice quick and simple activity. In this basket we have three African animals. We try to keep the animals grouped with like, for example by group or type. Even though he doesn't use the basket for long it's really good practice for getting an activity from his shelves, using his mat and then putting it all back.
In the future we will use an animal basket for matching and for a three period lesson.
When we name the animal or any object for Otis we will say the name clearly and strongly. For example "elephant" and repeat, rather than "this is an elephant". This needs to be a relaxed game. Otis will choose this from his shelves but if you are introducing it to your child it's really important that this is a fun and not a forced 'lesson'.
You could really put any objects (that are safe) in a basket, whatever you feel would engage your child.
Point and name. It suprises me that this is Otis's favourite book. It's not a book that I would have chosen for him (it was a gift) but it is the one he brings to me the most. It's not a story but a simple 'first words' book. He loves the interactive slide and I love that the images are true to life. He doesn't say any of the words yet but is making some of the correct sounds.
Hi-bye game. Otis has also caught onto greetings. He likes to play this hi-bye game. He hides behind the door waving and saying 'bye' then reappears. He's actually waving to me here. Hi and bye sound so alike I'm not sure which he is saying. This is imitation at it's finest, he uses the same tone that I use when I say bye to friends.
Animal alphabet cards. Otis has recently spent a lot of time in the car and in waiting rooms using these cards. The cards make up an animal alphabet. There is one animal for each letter of the alphabet. Otis likes to flick through and ask for their names. I laminated the cards and have written the letter the animal corresponds to on the back which helps Caspar to remember the name of the animal if he's using it with Otis.
These animal alphabet cards were given to me by Meg. Meg has kindly offered to send the printable file (with some additional information about how to use them) to the first ten people who leave a comment. Thanks Meg.
Other language development activities we do with Otis;
- name body parts when dressing and washing, naming them as I touch them
- name foods as we prepare and eat them
- name other objects as we use them (clothes, tools, toys)
- name people and places
- read through our photo book and name our friends and family
- name objects that he brings to me such as "flower" or "stick"
- name our experiences like "rain" and "wet"
- describing actions, what we are doing or about to do
- ask questions, give commands
- encourage him to interact and converse with a wide range of people.
Wow, that sounds like a lot but what it all comes down to for me is staying intentional about the lanuage I use and how I use it.
I'd love to hear if you have any tips for language development at this stage.
Edited: Thank you to everyone who left a comment. Meg has kindly agreed to email the animal alphabet file to everyone who left a comment. Thanks again Meg.