To communicate well your child needs to be able to use and understand words well. From birth to three years old your child will be learning language at an explosive rate. As we will see, each 6 month interval will bring huge changes in your child's language skills.
One of the most important ways to build your child's understanding of words and speaking skills is to read books to your child daily. This can begin as early as 9 -12 months. Start with colorful picture books, not too many pictures on each page. Name and point to each picture. As you demonstrate pointing and naming the picture, your child will soon begin to point to the pictures, too. At 12 months your baby will be saying "mama" and "dada" and a few object names in baby speak such as "ball", "bottle", or "puppy".
At 18 months you can begin to introduce very simple story books with one simple sentence on each page. Your child may only have the attention for 1, possibly 2 very short books. Be sure to read the story with enthusiasm and expression. Continue to point to the pictures and also begin to point to the words. By pointing to the words you will be teaching the connection between print and words. Now your child will use 10 to 20 words and will name around 5 things.
At 2 years of age continue reading a book with colorful pictures and a simple story every day. When reading a familiar book you could point and say "What's that?" and expect your child to name a few of the items you request. Repeat new words 2 or 3 times. Now your child may have a speaking vocabulary of around 300 words! She is beginning to put 2 or 3 words together. Your child is using names of things and persons but is also using action words, words related to situations such as "ride", "outside", "bed" or "night" time, and words related to location such as "up," down "," in "or" out. "Your two year old is now asking you" what's this? "and" what's that? "over and over!
At 2 years 6 months of age your daily reading is really paying off and he is using about 450 words. Now he will use some plurals by placing an / s / at the end of words and combine names of objects and actions together. He is calling for attention and you may hear "watch me" or "look at me" a lot. Your child will use some short three or four word sentences. He is naming many common pictures and things he uses regularly.
At three years of age your child will be able to handle more than 1 or 2 books during reading time because attention is now expanding to close to 10 minutes. She is using up to 1000 words, and uses words to express ideas, feelings, and observations. With familiar books you can leave off the final word in a sentence, or read just the first two words of a sentence. Wait for a few seconds and look at her with expectation. Your child will soon learn to fill in the words! She will really enjoy this activity.
Reading to your child daily is well worth the time as you see language skills blossom. It is important to keep some guidelines in mind. Remember to always make the experience a joyful and positive one. Show enthusiasm and delight. Set aside a specific time of day for reading and a time when your child is relaxed. After a bath or before bed might work for you, or after breakfast. Your child will begin to connect that time with reading and look forward to that special time together. If your child at times does not show an interest in reading, just continue to read the story as he plays quietly with a toy. When you continue to demonstrate enthusiasm and interest as you read he may very well come back to participating. Happy reading!