Infants & Toddlers/Activities: Activities That Promote Language Skills
- Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K
Make small requests of the baby and then verbalize how cooperative he is. For example, as you diaper, ask the baby to lift his legs so that you can slide the diaper underneath more easily. Thank him for cooperating. When you have finished diapering, sit him up and exclaim how handsome he looks in a mirror right by the diapering table. When you are putting on his shirt, compliment him for raising his arms so that you can more easily dress him.
Labeling is very important for early language learning. Nouns are much easier for infants to learn than verbs. Be sure to give babies the names of their body parts, such as nose, toes, hands, and tummy. When you want to teach face names, support babies on your lap in front of a mirror and touch their noses, cheeks, chins, ears, as you say the names of each facial part. Smile and point to that body part in the mirror image. By 18 months, most babies recognize their own faces in the mirror.
As you place foods such as shredded yellow cheese, cereal, or peeled, grated apple on a baby's high chair tray, call out the name of each food with animation and the smacking of lips. Babies not only enjoy these meals, but now have the language power to know the names of foods eaten!
Read daily with babies. It is of concern that research shows teachers read far less often with infants under a year old than with toddlers. Yet infants respond well to brief daily intimate sessions of snuggling together to "read" a book. Make picture-book sharing a loved and treasured daily experience! Choose small cardboard, cloth, or vinyl books with pictures of babies in familiar activities, such as being bathed, rubbed dry with a towel and then cuddled, digging with a pail and shovel in a sand box, or romping on a lawn with a puppy. Infants particularly delight in seeing baby animals pictured with their mothers. They will enthusiastically call out "moo cow" or "doggie," as you slowly turn each page and make up your own story about each picture of animals you are sharing with the baby. As babies are able to sit well, you may be able to snuggle several of them against your body on the floor and read to a small group at a time. For very young babies, try to read individually.
Greet toddlers daily in your school by forming a circle and singing. Mention each child's name specifically in each repetition of your greeting song. A favorite melody is "Good morning little yellow bird, yellow bird, who are YOU?" Each toddler will call out his name as you smile and point to that child in the greeting circle.
By age 2, most toddlers can say dozens of single words and clearly call out for a toy they want you to fetch. Their "receptive language" should be developing well by now, so that they understand hundreds of words. Ask a toddler to bring you his sweater from his cubby and put it in the stroller before you get ready for an outing with your group. She should be able to decode the meanings of the words and carry out this easy sequence of two or three activities. Keep assessing how much of your language each toddler understands.
Toddlers sometimes have trouble with transitions. Use chants with familiar nursery melodies to create songs that ease transition times. At naptime, try lullabies from many nations. Sleepy-time songs help toddlers relax and get comfortable. Repeat the verses over and over. The hypnotic melodies soothe toddlers into sleep and help them learn the words to some songs. Use familiar melodies to get children moving to rhythms and words.