How Parental Engagement Impacts Your Child’s Language Development

Parental Engagement and Your Child’s Language Development

When it comes to your child’s language and literacy development, what you do at home as a parent or caregiver, is absolutely essential. In this post, we will talk about parent engagement, what it really means, and how you can begin making a difference today.

How Parental Engagement Impacts Your Child’s Language Development

Early language development is nurtured primarily by you- the parents! This happens when you are highly engaged in interactive experiences with your child.

Being interactive means to be purposeful and directly responsive to their curiosity and natural attempts to communicate. It truly is a beautiful way to connect with your child!

Historically, parental engagement meant engaging in home-based activities with your child that are merely supportive of school efforts and your child’s performance in school.  

However, we are seeing that in order to gain the max benefits in children’s language development, parents must engage with their children beyond what has been considered historically ‘satisfactory’. 

Let’s consider parent engagement consisting of three dimensions: 

  1. Warmth and responsiveness
  2. Support for your child’s autonomy and self-regulation skills
  3. Participation in learning and early literacy

Linguistic, conceptual and behavioral competencies begin to blossom and take shape all at the same time- during your child’s first years. It has been found that these 3 skills are the pillars of school success later in school.

Children who enter into kindergarten in a more advanced stage of language development consistently show greater success in reading and other skills in the 4th grade and beyond. 

As I was searching for a good video to place in this blog post, I came across this gem. Enjoy.

Warmth and Responsiveness

Warmth and responsiveness are key to developing your child’s language and behavioral skills. Parents are naturally responsive care-givers. You have the ability to recognize and respond to your child’s needs by providing emotional-effective support.

This is especially important when it comes to joint engagement. For children in the pre-linguistic stage, next time you sit with your child, pay close attention to the objects they hone in on. If they attempt to include you in their engagement with an object,  that is your cue to step in and react by filling in their movements with questions and narration.

Expressive and receptive language development has been found to increase when parents engage in joint attention activities where the child initiates the engagement!

Children who are talking do a better job of communicating what they want to take part in with you.  Keep interactions with your child warm and responsive. They benefit from interacting with you when you offer quick and appropriate reactions to their utterances.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the conversation open with positive feedback. Even when your child is on the verge of doing something unsatisfactory, your response matters. Play into their curiosity and slowly remove the object or divert their actions by asking questions such as, “Oh, I understand why that is interesting to you,” as opposed to, “No,” or “Stop!” This builds their sense of wonderment and gives them the opportunity to gain autonomy.

Sensitive and responsive interactions may occur at any time or place. The opportunities to engage in joint attention are endless! Just keep talking and responding! 

Support for your Child’s Autonomy and Self-Regulation Skills

When parents engage in activities that foster language, such as book-reading, they are actively building strong effective bonds that foster self-regulation skills. 

Language seems to make children more capable of regulating their own feelings, thoughts, and actions. It has been observed that preschoolers with strong regulatory skills are more empathetic toward their peers, form more positive relations with peers and teachers, and are more likely to attain better achievement in kindergarten and beyond.

Reading tips for reading time. Before, During and After reading questions to ask your child during reading time.

Participation in Learning and Literacy

Read, read, read!  Reading to your child is one of the most impactful activities you can do to advance their language development and begin getting them set up to learn to read. For more information on the powerful effects of reading storybooks with your child, check this out. 

The Powerful Effects of Reading Storybooks with Your Child

In regards to reading, learning to read does not occur naturally as language does.

Let me say that again, reading does not come naturally to anyone.

Although acquiring a language is naturally occurring, the way parents engage with their child early on is what determines the rate of both their language and reading development. Ultimately, your child gains the opportunity to take on reading much quicker when these three dimensions of parent engagement are in full effect and language development is fostered.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Be sure to contact me on Instagram if you have any questions for me @thinkbeyondliteracy

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Cunningham, A., Etter, K., Platas, L., Wheeler, S., & Campbell, K. (2015). Professional development in emergent literacy: A design experiment of teacher study groups. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 31, 62-77.

Dickinson, D., Griffith, J., Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012) How reading books fosters language development around the world. Child Development Research, 2012, 1-15.

Patterson, S., Elder, L., & Gulsrud, A., (2013). The association between parental interaction style and children’s joint engagement in families with toddlers with autism. Autism, 18, 511-518.

Sheridan, S., Knoche, L., Kupzyk, K., Pope Edwards, C., & Marvin, C. (2011). A randomized trial examining the effects of parent engagement on early language and literacy: The getting ready intervention. Journal of School Psychology, 49, 361-383.