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Raising kids with the gift of the gab

12 October
Posted by:
Michael Grose
There's been a lot written about Bindi Irwin, since her father Steve passed away. She's certainly a confident young lady. I've often wondered about how someone so young can be so articulate? She certainly has the gift of the gab. Is it nature or nurture? Does her gender give her a head start or can anyone learn to project themselves so well given the right upbringing?

I suspect it's a little of all three. Her gender gives her a head start. She's a naturally gifted orator and she obviously grew up in a language-rich environment.

Some children have a language head start on their peers because they grow up in a language-rich environment. Gender plays its part in early language development as girls’ brains are more attuned to language development than boys. However the amount and nature of language children are exposed to far outweigh the significance of gender.

The sheer amount of talk addressed directly to a child makes a huge difference. One American study found that children heard an average of 600 words an hour spoken to them. However, a small percentage of children are exposed to 1,200 words an hour. This makes a startling difference resulting in larger, faster-growing vocabularies as well as significantly higher verbal IQ scores.

The key is directing language at children rather than children overhearing language on TV or parent conversations.

Although the first six or seven years of life are a critical period for language, this period only declines gradually. Children of all ages can benefit from increased language stimulation – less TV, more conversation and reading.

Here are some strategies you can use to enhance language development for children:

1. From an early age give names or labels to any objects, actions or people that attract your child’s attention.
2. Use a variety of adjectives (big, huge, gigantic), adverbs (fast, speedy, quickly), prepositions (in, inside, out) rather than just use nouns and verbs.
3. Use lots of repetition, repeating nursery rhymes when young.
4. With older children engage in constructional language rather than instructional language. Constructional language revolves around what, where and who questions. To go to a deeper level of thinking ask why, how and which questions.
5. Follow your children’s words with questions and discussion.
6. Discuss and recall events of the day with children, so they get used to describing their day.
7. Read to your children every day and use books as a starting point for conversation.

Researchers generally agree that parents who talk more, use a greater variety of words and sentences, who ask more questions than tell kids what to do, and who consistently respond in positive ways to their children’s language give their children the edge in language development that profoundly affects learning as well.

What can you do to make sure you create a language-rich environment for your kids?

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