Helping babies' language born through Covid-19

Have you welcomed a new baby in the last 2 years? Or know someone who has? A recent study from the US has revealed that children born during the COVID-19 pandemic had lower scores in language development, which was attributed to having less interaction with parents. While no research has been done (so far) on Australian children, we thought we would share some strategies that can help support your child’s language development.



Language happens in play and daily routines

The easiest way to help your child’s language development is to simply talk to them, especially when playing. Play is how children learn about the world around them, and talking about what they are doing helps them understand the meaning of words. For example, if they’re playing with a toy car, you can introduce action words like ‘go,’ ‘stop,’ ‘crash’ or concepts such as ‘up,’ ‘down,’ ‘in,’ ‘over’ to help them put meaning to those words. In saying this, don’t feel the need to spend lots of money on the latest toys. If given the opportunity, your child will be just as happy playing with pots and pans or cardboard boxes!


Everyday routines like bath time, getting ready for bed or a walk to the park also provide excellent opportunities for communication. These are very structured times for a child, so they are likely to learn the language that is part of the routine. For example, words during the bath routine could include ‘Bath time! Time for a bath! In you get! Ooh bubbles! Pop the bubbles!’ Use the same words every time, and give your child opportunities to be actively involved in the routine to help engage them.


Follow your child's lead

Your child is a unique individual and already has their own interests and preferences. By getting down to their level and following what they are looking at or playing with, you will be able to see what engages and excites them. Talking about the things they are focused on will help them learn more words. Giving your child your full attention and getting down to their physical level also shows you are interested in what they are doing, and they may be more likely to communicate with you when they see you are right there!


More comments, less questions

When talking with your child, try not to ask too many questions. If you do ask a question, answer it for them! Instead of asking questions, make more comments. For example, instead of:


Do you want to play? Say, "Let’s play!"

What’s that? Is that a dog? Say, "Hello, dog!"

Do you like the soup? Say, "Mmmm! Yummy soup."


Comments can help children learn about their world without feeling interrogated, and they may be more likely to add their own comment after yours. It’s best to use comments that are around the same number of words as your child is currently using to aid their understanding.


Whether you are concerned for your child’s language skills or want ideas to support their development, we hope you find these tips helpful. Let us know how you go with them!


Reference

Dyer, O. (2021, August 16). COVID-19: Children born during the pandemic score lower on cognitive tests, study finds. BMJ. https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n2031.short