Positive parenting: Keys to encouraging language development

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MADISON (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Parents are always eager to hear their child’s first words and as their kids start to string those words together into phrases, parents may look for the best ways to encourage language development.

Four-year-old Davis learns from listening to his siblings. But mom, Erielle, says his vocabulary also grows when Davis watches her.

Erielle told Ivanhoe, “Thinking of salt, he likes to put salt next to food. But I show him bring the salt up high so it covers everything.”

Developmental psychologists say it’s not just the words, but our movements that are especially important.

Elizabeth Wakefield, PhD, from Loyola University, detailed, “What we do with our hands naturally, these tools that we have available can be really powerful tools for learning.”

During Wakefield’s time as a post-doctorate fellow she studied how children learn verbs through gestures.

Researchers studied two groups of four and 5-year-olds. One group learned made-up words, like ratching, through actions. One learned made up words through hand motions and the researchers tested their understanding of the words.

Then, the scientists asked the children to repeat the new verbs and use their hands to recreate the action.

Researchers found the hand motions were important to learning.

“The gesture itself would help the child separate the action that’s important for the verb from the object,” explained Wakefield.

It also lets kids understand verbs can be used in various situations. For example, push the shopping cart or push the swing. So parents, use gestures to remind kids the word is about the action, not the item.

Researchers had kids return a second day to test them on their vocabulary learning. They found that kids who learned through gestures retained the knowledge.

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