How can parents create a language-rich environment and build language connections?  Though the first three years are critical, it is important throughout childhood.

Here are some practical tips, condensed from my new book!

Read to your child every day, including your infant. Around 6 weeks of age a baby’s field of vision expands
to be able to at least briefly look at a single object book. As your child grows, find books that your child loves to have read over and over again. Most communities have free libraries. Take advantage of this valuable resource.
Sing to your baby and to your children. Take a familiar tune and make up your own words. Listen to kid songs in the car and sing along.
Be a “sports caster” for your infant. You can’t have a two-way conversation with a baby but you can talk to her in a meaningful way by narrating what she does, much like a sports caster narrates a football game.

“Look at Nora roll the ball. Go get it…look at Nora run to get the ball. She’s got it! Yeah!!! Now she rolls it to daddy.”

Talk about things that are important to your child. Look him in the eye and give him your full presence. Allow him to take the lead and talk about what is on his mind. (See my web site for a video example called “Eating Snakes”: http://www.drbarbarasorrels.com/here-comes-school/)
Introduce big words. When my daughter was two we taught her that food is not just good, it is “delectable.” We were eating dinner with some friends one night when she piped up and said to our hostess, “The food is delectable.” Our friends were shocked that a two year old would know this word. Take an ordinary word and brainstorm as many words that have a similar meaning. For example, synonyms for the word happy can be joyful, delighted, pleased, contented, glad or cheery.

Give children lots to talk about. Children who live in sterile surroundings with limited life experiences have little to talk about. A child who is parked in front of a television, computer or electronic game will have little reason for conversation. Sadly, many children interact with machines more than they interact with people. Likewise, a single-minded focus on academic skills gives children little to talk about. When they are endlessly drilled on letters, numbers, colors, sounds and shapes, they have little opportunity to develop a rich vocabulary. The more real life experiences a child has, the more they have to talk about.

Take your toddler to the park and eat lunch on a blanket. Feel and talk about the texture of the grass. Listen for the sounds of nature. Collect rocks, look for insects, and watch for birds; observe the ants that are trying to carry away your chips. Visit a shoe store and talk about the shoes you would wear to a party, the shoes you would wear on a walk in woods, or the shoes you would wear in the rain. Talk about the colors, the textures and the material that the shoes are made of. Compare the different kinds of soles and why sports shoes have thicker soles than dress shoes. You get the picture. It’s about the grown-ups changing their perspective on ordinary life.

Visit the zoo, public library or museum. Pick wildflowers in a field. Collect fireflies at night. Visit public playgrounds. Feed the ducks at a local park. Visit the grocery store and observe and talk about the different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Everywhere you go introduce new words, new concepts and new ways of looking at the world.
Eat dinner together at least 4 times a week and tell stories about your day. The family dinner is nearly obsolete in America. Research abounds on the many contributions the family meal makes to the healthy development of children but one of the prime advantages is language development. Children learn the art of conversation and how to listen, take turns, and exchange ideas.

Sounds simple enough but many children have no idea how to do this because they have never had the opportunity.

Did I miss anything? Please sound off below!

This post is from my new book, Ready or Not Here Comes SchoolOnly $7.99 here