Shaping A Child's Language Development

I recently attended a college graduation where I sat in the audience behind a cross-generational family. I could not help listening to the conversation between the family’s young daughter, her mother and her grandmother. This child was quite the talker, and often repeated what her mother and grandmother were saying to each other.

The situation became almost comical; I looked at the stranger to the side of me and chuckled when the child repeated “oh my gosh!’ in the same cadence and tone as her grandmother. At one point many people surrounding us burst into laughter when the child began repeating the master of ceremonies as he called the names of the graduates marching across the stage.  

Researchers and teachers now know that language acquisition begins at birth; as parents talk to their babies, using repetitive words and phrases, children gradually begin to learn language.  By about nine months, children can understand simple words and directions.

Additionally, language acquisition can be divided into two categories: receptive, the amount of words language the child understands by hearing, and expressive, the amount of words the child can speak.  Important to remember is that children develop receptive language before expressive language.     

Because of this process, parents and early childhood professionals have a responsibility to influence and shape children’s development by helping to influence their receptive language.  Here are some tips you can follow to enhance your child or student’s language development:

Turn off the TV.

Talk with children more often. According to Marina Krcmar, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest,  children’s programs such as Telletubbies do not teach children younger than 22 months new vocabulary, a common misperception.  Krcmar suggests parents and others should not depend on television to teach children language. Instead, they should actively engage children in the language learning process, acting as responsive language teachers.

Read to children daily.

This has become part of traditional childrearing and developmentally-appropriate practices in early education. One key to this practice is to read the same stories again and again, as it will enhance optimal language development


Model appropriate language for children.

Parents and early childhood professionals are often amazed at the things children say or repeat.  As I observed at the graduation ceremony addressed earlier, the observed family’s grandmother acted surprised and embarrassed  when her two  year-old granddaughter repeated “oh my gosh” after she said it. However, as demonstrated through modeling methods, if a child hears a phrase over and over, she or he will learn it and will be repeating it in various settings, be it at a child care center, out in public or at home.  Thus, all adults need to be mindful and guard our words when young children are in our presence.

As parents and early childhood professionals we must take our responsibility for enhancing children’s language development seriously.  Learning more about the language acquisition process and following these tips from experts in the early childhood field can help us to achieve this important task. All and all, it is most important to remember that children will learn what they hear.

External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Lauren Drakes, MS, is an Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator at Rasmussen College-School of Education. She heads the Early Childhood Education degree program at Rasmussen College in Pasco County, FL. Lauren has been in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years. Her work experience includes teaching at an elementary school level, training early childhood program directors and caregivers, providing accreditation consulting, teaching the national Child Development Associate courses and Florida state administrator credential course. Lauren received her BA in Psychology from City College of the City University of New York and her MS in Early Childhood Education Administration from Nova Southeastern University.

Receive Personalized Information Today

  • Personalized financial aid
  • Customized support services
  • Detailed program plan
  • Attend a no-obiligation Nursing Information Session
  • Meet the Dean of Nursing
  • Enrollment application
  • Personalized financial aid
  • Career path guidance

How may we contact you?

Please complete all fields

What would you like to study?

The program you have selected is not available in your area. Please select another program of interest.

By requesting information, I authorize Rasmussen College to contact me by email, phone or text message at the number provided.

Share Your Story Ideas
Our campuses and online community have stories to tell and we want to hear them! Did your campus raise the most money in the community for an organization? Do you have online study tips for other students? Would you like to share a personal success story about overcoming an obstacle while earning your degree?
To have your story idea considered:
  • You must be a faculty member, current student or graduate
  • Story ideas must be regarding Rasmussen College or an inspiring story about a student at Rasmussen College
  • Your submission must be original and may not have been published elsewhere online already
Please Note: Your story idea may be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat or on one of our social networks. A member of our news team will contact you should we move forward with a blog post.
Feel free to suggest an idea for a blog post to be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat by filling out the form below:

First Name: (required)

Last Name: (required)

Email Address: (required)

Phone Number: (required)

500 characters or less


Your Story Idea Has Been Submitted

Thank you for sending us a story idea! We’re reviewing submissions and may contact you soon to learn more about your story. In the meantime, make sure to check out our current blogs to see what’s happening on campus.