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The Importance of Early Language

Little Boy Playing Doctor
There Are Different Types of Language
  • Language in the home is often functional, or  instructional, rather than complex

  • Complex language doesn't develop unless children are exposed to it. Reading helps

  • Hearing matters in language development. So it needs checking if there's an issue

  • Staging the complexity of instructions improves comprehension

  • Increasing understanding of prepositions increases comprehension

  • Pragmatic language develops by observing facial cues, intonation, volume, body language etc

  • Language supports future learning so vocabulary and comprehension matter

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Have you ever considered the quality of the language you use with you children?

Is it possible that the language you use may be largely functional?

E.g. Put your socks on please. Have you found your shoes? Grab your bag. We have to go.

So why do we need to take time to talk with our kids?

  • To develop their vocabulary through reading

  • To extend their level of comprehension by exposing them to increasingly complex concepts

  • And to help them learn how pragmatic language works: facial expressions, intonation, inflection, volume, when to pause

Why are Language Skills Important to Life Success?

Complex language doesn't develop unless children are exposed to it.

Job Interview

​Language is the foundation for most other learning to build upon. As we grow, competent language skills are crucial for more complex understandings.


A well-developed vocabulary, the ability to articulate well and the ability to read and write well, all assist us to succeed early in life.  And although this doesn't necessarily guarantee life-long success, early language skills greatly increases its likelihood.


Be it fair or not, in our modern society we're judged by our ability to communicate. As a parent it makes sense to ensure our children are as effective at communicating as possible. Because for many of us, our communication skills create our life.

Museum 3

For example: Even as adults, if we go for an interview and are poor communicators, we are often judged as having less ability than we actually possess.


I know someone with an IQ of 140+ who has a stutter. While he had the brainpower to do whatever he wanted, people were inclined to assess his abilities as lower than they actually were. His resultant loss of confidence made things even more difficult for him.

For a child to thrive in a school environment, the child needs the vocabulary to understand what's being said to them. Otherwise learning is difficult & school can become tedious.

Lack of early school success can set your child up with a negative attitude to formal learning. And it can be a big contributor to behaviour problems.

Why the Ability to Follow Directions is an Indicator of Comprehension
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How to Develop Instructional Language:

I've seen children who've had very limited ability to follow directions, and this is serious, because it can affect their future learning.

As just one example: They could be identified at the beginning of  school, by their inability to understand simple prepositions like: behind, next to, in front, beside, etc while lining up.


And then, when their 3D world is reduced to a 2D world (on a page, or electronic whiteboard,) their lack of ability becomes even more apparent.​

Boy Writing on a Blackboard
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For example: While instructions may have been in single directives (one instruction at a time,) they may have been issued more quickly than the child can follow. And while they're still working out the first thing, the teacher has moved on to the second, or third direction. The potential confusion, and frustration, for these children can adversely affect their attitude to learning.

Hearing Aid



Do you ever get frustrated, that your child didn't do what you asked them to,

or half-did what was asked,

or did it incorrectly.


Or didn't even attempt it.


If your child frequently misunderstands you & has difficulty producing sounds accurately it may be prudent to get their hearing checked, particularly if they're not hearing softer sounds like 'c' and 'g,' or the difference between vowels sounds like 'e' and 'i,' as in pen and pin.

​​​Assuming there's no suspicion of a hearing disability, it can still be quite difficult for children to move from simple instructions, to more complex ones. Moving from single directives, to multiple directives, needs to be done in stages for your child to understand what's expected. And it's wise to provide familiar circumstances, as a scaffold, as you increase the difficulty.


​For example: Can you please get your lunchbox? (1 variable)

Can you please get your lunchbox out of your school bag? (2 variables)

Can you please get your lunchbox out of the orange travel bag and put it on the sink? (4-5 variables)

The above examples provide staging of the difficulty of a routine you may wish your child to assume over time.

However, 'Can you please get "Whiskers' from behind the lounge, give her a drink of milk, some dry food and put her outside for a wee?' may be much less likely to be achieved with success.

Kitty Love
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The Value of Staging Variables in Instructions
Neat Storage Boxes

If you haven't staged the introduction of instructions with your child, by increasing their complexity over time, they may understand less than you hope.


Lack of comprehension can have both functional and behavioural implications.

Assuming that like most children, your positive attention is better than your negative attention, your child will likely try to do what you ask. 


But your child will also quickly lose interest, or become upset, if they're not achieving what you expect. What's the point for them, if they're trying their best, but you're still not happy.

It makes much more sense to stack it, so your child feels success.

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To assist your children in following directions well, helping them to understand prepositions may help.

We use prepositions all the time. For example: Can you put your bag inside your cupboard? The boy is behind his mate. And especially in school settings: Can you draw a circle around the blue square?

There are a lot of prepositions and they're often used in instructions.
Prepositions are words that show how nouns relate to other words within a given sentence, or to each other.
Watercolor Penguin 3

The penguin is under the table.

3D Ball
Flying Chick

The ball is on top of the chicken.

Where is the heart?

The heart is between the Wolf and Red Riding Hood or it's in the middle.

Where is the Wolf? He's next to or beside the heart.

Cartoon Wolf
Chocolate Heart
Little Red Riding Hood

There are some excellent first learning books that identify common prepositions and I suggest examining them with your child.


Or you can also find real life examples of prepositions, or play a game like 'Swapsies' with your young child.

For example: 'I'm behind you and you're in front of me. But where are you now?' Swap positions.

Your child takes their turn; and needs to say where he, or she is, relative to you.

We've identified ways to help develop understanding of prepositions.


For more ideas on developing more complex language skills, go to Best Starts for Kids.

Or click on one of the links below.

Girl with Flower

Best Parenting is a high quality parenting website designed with child and family success in mind. It highlights what successful parents do differently to those who struggle. Best Parenting provides free resources for busy parents who want the best practical advice on: how to give kids a best start in life, better tips for parenting toddlers, effective child rearing strategies, behaviour management tips, successful goal setting and organizational strategies for successful families, easy family dinner recipes, self-care tips for time-poor parents and free kids learning games. The aim of Best Parenting is to provide quality practical parenting tips and advice to best help children and families succeed.


This site provides examples of what worked for me over decades and you are welcome to use these ideas as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. Best Parenting does not provide any guarantee that this information will work in every circumstance with every family or with every child. It is your responsibility as a user of this site to ensure that you adhere to any recommended safety suggestions either implicit or explicit on this site and supervise your children while playing any games suggested. Similarly users of this site are advised to follow any recommendations for seeking professional advice as all information on this site is generic. Best Parenting is not affiliated with any other groups, clubs, religious organizations or educational systems.


Best parenting takes time. The best parenting advice ever is simple: Do your best, don't give up and love your children, no matter what.

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