Parents are the child’s first line of communication


Article submitted by Sheila Bremner

The Neepawa Press

Your child learns about talking and listening by being with you and other people. He/she learns the words in your language, how to put words together, how to have conversations and how to play with others.

Children also learn how to follow directions and understand questions. Your child learns about talking and listening right from the day he/she is born. This learning continues right up until adulthood.

“Through ongoing, back and forth exchanges of words and facial expressions, children's communication skills are strengthened,” said Dr. Stanley Greenspan, M.D.

Communication begins in infancy when a baby starts to communicate without words. A smile gets a smile back, a frown gets a frown back. Your baby has lots of coos, grunts, gurgles, cries and ahhs! Responding to your baby’s sounds and imitating them helps your child realize that this first form of communication is a good thing. By eight months, a baby is learning that a joyful sound gets a gleeful look from parents. An angry sound gets a “What's the matter?” response and look from a parent.

Your one year old will respond to familiar sounds like the dog barking or when you call her name. She will recognize words for everyday objects like cup, shoe and car. By one and a half years, your child understands and says at least 10 words, points to people and body parts like eyes or nose and starts to pretend play, such as talking on the phone and going to sleep and so on. These new skills can all be encouraged and practiced when you join in the fun!

Children will start to use two words together, like “more milk” and “Mommy eat”, around two years of age. They will start to understand two part sentences such as, “Get your ball and put it in the box.” By two and a half years old, children are using words that name objects (ball, shoe) describe, (big, hot) and talk about actions (kick, eat). They will use common objects in pretend play. For example, he pretends to fill the toy car with gas and drive away. Playing with your child provides lots of opportunities to talk with them, ask questions and introduce new words. It is also a great time to help them with their sounds. For example: 

Child: “Oh, oh water pill” 

Parent: “The water spilled. Let's wipe it up”

Your three year old will be putting three to four words together, like, “I want juice” and “Daddy is at work”.

They will also use more little words, such as, “is” and “the”. They can understand and ask questions, like, “Where is your coat?” and describe activities, feelings and problems and start to tell simple stories.

A four year old's sentences are longer and more complete, such as, “I want to go out and play on the swing.” They will start to use more grammar and pronouns (I, me, he, she), past tense (walked) and some question words (what, where, when, why).

Five year olds use sentences that can be more than five to six words long and ask difficult questions such as why and how. They understand most questions and adult conversations and can retell a story by naming characters and talking about what happened. They can use present, past and future tenses like, walks, walked and will walk.

These are guidelines but if you have any concerns about you child's speech and language development or if your child is frustrated or difficult to understand, speech language pathologists can help. To find one in your area, contact your local health unit.