My husband, Lloyd, and I both love Halloween. I’m sure that’s not terribly surprising, considering how we embrace imagination. I mean, we had Batman and Ladybug Girl elements in our wedding! As Halloween approaches this year, we’ve spent a fair amount of time considering a costume for Stitch, who will be 20-months-old. Should we do a family costume? Should we choose one of her favorite things? Should we choose one of our favorite things? Should I make her/our costumes? Should we order something? So many considerations!

Encouraging Language Development in Babies & Toddlers. 19-month-old daughter looking at books of her favorite things

As I made a list of Stitch’s favorite things to consider, I couldn’t help but think about how she’s come to love such a wide range of things. Some are things that we love (Batman, ladybugs, dogs, etc.), and that exposure has peeked her own interest. But some of them are her very own and show her little personality (I mean, spiders?! She did not get that love from me!). She’s found them through books, the outdoors, songs, toys, and, yes, even television. But, they are ALL related to her emerging language.

“Education is everything you do with your child…A human being is born with the ability to learn and adapt to the time and place he is born into. He does this by observation of, and experiences in his environment.” ~Junnifa Nduoma Uzodike

The above quote is from a piece by Nduoma, “Brain Development: ‘Education is everything we do with the child.’” It’s definitely worth a read when you have a few minutes. Nduoma is an AMI-trained Montessori teacher, and I appreciate her perspective on life as education and the importance of this observation and experience from birth. While we don’t practice strictly Montessori parenting, we definitely pull from the philosophy.

Maria Montessori was guided by, “Follow the child.” Using your child’s interests to encourage emerging language just makes sense, even if it’s spiders–maybe especially if it’s spiders.

As we count down to Halloween, I want to share several of Stitch’s favorite interests–how the interest has developed and how we encourage it by talking about it, reading about it, singing about it, and finding it out and about in the real world.

Why does this matter? Research has continuously shown that the number of quality words a child is exposed to between the ages of 0-3 sets the foundation for not only their language development and literacy, but also assists with social and behavioral development and ultimately correlates with future success. This exposure to quality language is one of the most important things we as parents can do for our children.

I hope that by sharing how we encourage these interests in our home you may be inspired to find new ways to explore your child’s interests in an effort to expand their language and overall development. And, I hope that you will share activities you do with your children with us. We’re always looking for new ways to explore the world with Stitch.

The beauty of this approach is its simplicity. Plus, approaching the world in this way includes a great bunch of side effects: adventures, bonding, exploration, seeing the world through the joy of a child’s eyes, and so many more.

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, said, “What we teach children to love and desire will outweigh what we make them learn.” I’d take that one step further: we teach them what to love and desire by observing and encouraging their own interests, which will impact how and what they learn.

Start as babies. Talk to them. Read to them. Identify what is in the world around them to them. Explore interests with them. Let them make choices. Embrace their wonder and innocence. Watch in amazement as their interests and language emerge.

Join me over the next few weeks as we count down to Halloween with Stitch’s favorite things, highlighting how we explore them in every aspect of everyday life, encouraging her language development. We’ll close with her favorite thing that inspired this year’s Halloween costume.

Other posts in this series: