Why and How to Support Language Development

by | Jul 8, 2021

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Language development encompasses more than saying words or sentences.

Language enables children to reason, collaborate with others, solve problems, and grasp the meaning of important concepts. What’s more, the breadth of children’s vocabulary is closely related to how difficult it is for them to learn to read and largely determines their comprehension.

Language skills develop at a mind-boggling rate.

Young children’s active vocabulary typically increases from between 150 and 300 words at the age of 2 to somewhere between 900 and 1 000 words at the age of 3. From there it can be expected to expand to roughly 2 000 words at 4 years of age and 2 200 words at 5 years old.

Language skills and brain development build on each other.

This creates a snowball effect as children’s brains wiring becomes more integrated and better equipped to learn advanced language skills with every new word and expression they learn. In other words, the more language they learn, the easier it becomes to process language quickly and effectively, resulting in learning even more.

The complexity of the language that children learn depends on the quantity and the quality of the language that they hear.

When we speak to our children regularly in all types of situations, we immerse them in language so that they can recognise words that are used often and instinctively zoom in on the more useful and important words first.

Learning key words first is an effective strategy since young children decipher the meaning of new words by paying attention to the context in, which they are used, the non-verbal cues of the speaker and the meaning of surrounding words that are already familiar to them.

Consequently, the more key words they understand, the easier it becomes for them to spot and pay attention to the less popular words and learn their meaning.

Practical tips to guide you as you support your child’s language development between 3 and 5 years of age.

  1. Use “self-talk” and “parallel talk”. Self-talk involves talking out loud to your child about what you are doing, seeing, thinking, or feeling, while parallel talk is talking out loud about what your child is doing, seeing, thinking or feeling.


  1. Focus more on making comments, rather than asking questions. Children learn more when they are actively engaged in conversation. However, they withdraw when we put them on the spot, and they feel pressurized. Therefore, limit questions such as “What’s this?”. Instead, try to use at least three comments for every question that you ask. Focus on making statements, remarks and observations and then wait expectantly to indicate that it’s your child’s turn to talk.


  1. Help your child to make connections. Our brains learn words by association, but young children naturally have a limited frame of reference. As a result, they often don’t have anything in their mind to “hook” a new word to. When possible, provide visual cues to make it easier for them to know what you are talking about. For example, when asking “Do you want a mango?” hold up a mango. Also, add a gesture or facial expression to help explain the meaning of new words, like “exceptional” or “petrified”.


  1. Turn the television off. Children learn more language from engaging in serve-and-return interactions with people than they do, from watching and listening to someone speaking on a screen. Why? Because live interactions activate more brain regions at the same time, making the brain more receptive and ready to learn.


  1. Pay special attention to providing the necessary brain-building nutrients. The development of language skills requires new pathways to form in the brain and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are needed to provide the necessary building blocks for this development. Since they cannot be produced by our bodies, they must be obtained from our diet.


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  1. Very well family. Gifted Children and Language Development. [online] [cited on 17 June 2021] Available from https://www.verywellfamily.com/gifted-children-and-language-development-1449117
  2. Speech and language kids. 5 year old speech and language skills. [online] [cited on 18 June 2021] Available from: URL: https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/what-speech-and-language-skills-should-my-5-year-old-have/ 
  1. Using Self- and Parallel Talk to Enhance Communication Skills. [online] [cited on 17 June 2021] Available at http://info.teachstone.com/blog/using-self-and-parallel-talk-to-enhance-communication-skills

 IMPORTANT NOTICE. NESTLÉ® NANKID® 4 is not a breast-milk substitute and is formulated to meet the changing nutrition needs of healthy children older than 3 years.