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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 23 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Supporting Language Develpoment in Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers are unique in their own way as they begin developing, growing, and learning—and it is no different for language development. Infants begin learning in the womb and can differentiate the family’s voices almost immediately. In the second half of the first year, they are able to differentiate foreign languages and sounds from the language they will be using (Klass, 2017). Language development is critical for young children because it allows them to communicate and express feelings. Language development supports problem-solving and allows humans to develop and maintain relationships. Each of these helps a child’s learning and development, which in turn helps them with self-confidence in reading, writing, speaking, and independence.

Whenever working with young children, it is important to know and understand the developmental stages that children go through as they grow and develop. Whether you have a child of your own or you are teaching and working with young children, there are so many ways to encourage and help them on their developmental path. We must remember that not all children develop at the same rate, but there are things we can do to increase developmental milestone times. When it comes to supporting language development in infants and toddlers, there are a few easy things to remember so that you can get them engaging with you.

Supporting Infants: Don’t forget they are always listening and watching you.

Infants are so interested in your face and your voice. They love hearing you talk; they are learning every second, so don’t waste any time!

  • Talk to them, and use your facial expressions and voice fluctuations. They are learning from everything you say and do, along with what your face looks like (mad, sad, excited, happy, etc.).
  • Respond to facial expressions and noises your infant makes. This begins to show them how conversations work.
  • Sing songs and say nursery rhymes-the repetition helps build cognitive development and memory.
  • Read books babies and children love repetitive games and text, so it is ok to read the same book over and over! Picture books may be a good place to start!
  • Play finger games
  • Use puppets when engaging with children.

Supporting Toddlers: They want to engage with you; they are excited to tell you everything they know!

The list above does not stop as your child develops. Keep adding to what you are already doing! Toddlers are busy, and the babbling will begin to turn into real words and sentences.

  • Continue to talk to your toddler. Ask questions, tell them what things are, and explain things even if they don’t understand. They are learning to carry on a conversation and learning how to ask questions.
  • Begin having them point out objects, body parts, and colors and have them tell you what they are.
  • Play games at home (Build with blocks, color, paint) and talk about the processes.
  • Play games in the car (point out cars that are certain colors, tell stories about the clouds. Let them have a turn, go back and forth in speaking)
  • Read Books, talk about different words in the book to develop vocabulary, and have them point out objectives in the pictures.
  • Show and tell (this helps your child begin communicating and to tell about something they feel is important). Show and tell has gone away in many schools, but it was something I did every morning. I wanted my students to practice speaking in front of others in complete sentences, using vocabulary that they knew and understood, and speaking about something that was important to them!
  • Model for them how to speak in a complete sentence, how to say words or phrases, how to read a book, and voice fluctuation.
  • Cook with children (this teaches them vocabulary, how to carry on a conversation etc.).
  • Go on a nature hunt (look for sticks, rocks, climb a tree.
  • JUST PLAY/Play games (Play in some respects has become extinct, children need to play to develop. It is their vehicle to learning and so important for language development).
  • Begin teaching the child words such as “thank you, please and excuse me .”Teach them what they mean and what being polite is.
  • Group activities, play dates, centers. All of these activities engage children in speaking with others their same age.

These ideas are only a few things you can do with your child to help them develop language at home. These things can also be used in the classroom and implemented into the daily schedule. Be creative, have fun, and engage with your child. These stages will only last a little while! Don’t forget that a child’s language development is a critical part of their growth and development and that “Every family—regardless of income, education level or their spoken language—can help their child develop the language needed to learn and be successful in school” (Language Development in Young Children, 2020).

Here are some extra resources I found that may be beneficial:


Klass, P. (2017, Feb 21). Language Lessons Start in the Womb. New York Times.

Pennsylvania’s Promise for Young Children. Language Development in Young Children. (2020).