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Nurturing Your Preschooler’s Language Development

Nurturing Your Preschooler’s Language Development

The ability for a child to use words properly is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of future school success and parents are the biggest influence on their child’s language development so parents should take special care to develop their child’s language skills before they go to school.

What is Normal Language Development in a Preschooler?

·       3 year olds generally have a vocabulary of 900-1000 words, 90% of what they say is intelligible,
they speak in 3-4 word sentences most of the time, and begin to use pronouns in their everyday conversations, although they may not always be used correctly.

·       4 year olds generally have a vocabulary of 4,000-6,000 words, speak in 5-6 word sentences, can be understood by strangers all of the time, and use prepositions in their everyday conversations.

·       5 year olds generally have a vocabulary of 5,000-8,000 words, they speak in more complex and compound sentences, they use correct pronouns, and their stories are more elaborate.  For example, a simple question of “How was your day today?” might have generated an answer of “Good…we got to play outside” last year, but this year is replaced by “It was great.  You won’t believe what happened on the playground…Billy pushed Susie and then Susie got mad and cried.  I played on the swing.  It was really hot outside.  I got to help the teacher with calendar.  I sat by Sam for lunch.  He ate carrots and ranch.  I hate the way ranch smells.  I’m not sitting by him anymore.  His mommy gives him a little candy bar every day!  Why don’t you put that in my lunch?  Do you think it’s going to rain tomorrow?”

Tip:  If you are concerned about your child’s language development , keep a “word diary” for a week.  Make note of and count the number of words in his/her sentences and average them at the end of the week.

How Do I Help My Preschooler Develop Appropriate Language Skills?

·       Provide “language-rich” experiences!  

o      Turn off the TVs, radios, and cell phones in the car every once in a while.  The car is a great place to build your child’s language skills…even when we are running those dreaded errands!  Talk to your child about where you are going, why you are going there, etc.  Talk to them about the things you see as you are driving.  Talk about the weather and how the seasons are changing.  Ask them to look for signs that, for example, fall is just around the corner.  Point out different things around the city.  Play “I Spy”. 

o      Take your kids to the grocery store.   As you pick up items and place them in your basket, have your preschooler categorize the item…is it a fruit or a vegetable?  Is it healthy or is it junk food?  What color is the food? What shape is it? 

o      Sort laundry together.  Talk about the different sizes of clothes you are folding.  Talk about the colors.  Talk about the textures.  Sequence how to fold various articles of clothing.  Have your child follow your directions and develop their listening skills.

o      Make Day Trips a “language rich” experience.  For example a day trip to the zoo, but at a slower pace than we normally take it (which often times involves chasing our children from one exhibit to another) can be a great language building opportunity.   Slow down and talk to your preschooler about the size, color, and texture of each animal that you see…talk about where the animals come from originally and what the weather is like there compared to how it is here.  Wonder with your child about what each animal must eat and how much they must eat every day. Who does your preschooler thinks feeds the animals…would she like to have that job some day?   Have your child keep a journal, drawing animals that she sees along the way. 

·       Model good language skills for your child!  Use complete sentences and descriptive language around your child.   

·       Read books out loud to your children.  Children love to be read to by their parents!  Read to them often…make up voices for different characters, involve your child in predictive reading by asking questions,  have them re-tell the story by looking at the pictures after you have read it to them.

·       Allow opportunities for creative expression.  Playing in that messy playdough, clay, and finger paint helps stimulate the language centers in the young minds of preschoolers!

·       Ask questions that encourage more expressive answers than the simple “yes/no”.  Instead of asking “Did you have a good time today at preschool?” which requires only a “yes/no” answer ask more open-ended questions like “What did you do at school today?” or  “What was the best thing about your day?”

If you are concerned about the development of your child’s language, please call (918) 250-7093 to speak with one of the speech-language pathologists at TherapySource for Kids.  We provide free consultation and free language and developmental screenings.  We would be happy to assist you!


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