The words we serve up to our children are the words they soak in. The ‘health’ of their word bank will depend entirely on what they are consuming. If they are surrounded only by simple, uninspired language they will learn to only communicate, and express their needs as such. They will have enough to survive, but we all want more than that for tamariki. We want them to thrive.
Fortunately, it is not too hard to supercharge the nutrition in the language we offer our children. A little conscious thought will mean we can serve up the rich, vibrant language that brings communication and creativity alive for our young ones. We must push aside those myths that tamariki need us to dumb down and dull-down our vocabulary for them to understand us. What they need is for us to keep it real, using complete and correct sentences, and spice it up with zesty, delicious words. A big, wide world opens for tamariki with a big, wide vocabulary range. They will be able to express not just needs but also stories, not just name things but also describe them, and not just speak but be playful with language.
These early years are THE language years where their word-bank is being filled, simply by being in earshot of other speakers.
And it is not just wording they are soaking in but also the intricacies of a language they are surrounded by. They really are simply learning as they live, and we can serve them best by making sure the language on the menu for them is of the highest quality. When we speak of how we are feeling we can do better than “fine”. If we are captured by the extravagant beauty of something in nature, we can do better than, “I like this flower”! We want to use language that adds depth, sings in their ears and piques their curiosity. When we explain meanings, or compare a new word to a known one, this is not just a time of information, but a time of connection.
This is not to say, of course, that we bombard tamariki with talking all day long. We certainly can be chatter-free while they play, keep our instructions brief, and comfort with closeness rather than conversation when they are feeling overwhelmed. The key is really that we understand that while our children may be limited in the language they use, we do not have to limit ours. Give them the good stuff to digest so their word-bank is full of hearty deposits to draw from when the time comes.