According to relevant findings, physical and language development in children are inextricably linked. Children with delays in language development often exhibit signs of motor difficulties first, such as taking more time to learn how to sit up on their own, crawl, and walk. This may be due to underlying genetic factors.
While having excellent motor skills isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for language development and delayed physical development doesn’t mean that language will also be affected, there is a definite connection between the two. Research also shows that encouraging your child to reach physical developmental milestones may help them adopt language skills more readily.
How does motor development contribute to language learning?
Physical activities and language require some of the same abilities. When a baby adopts a new motor skill, they also get more chances to practice something that may be useful for speech development. Here are some examples:
- When children move their hands and arms rhythmically, they also practice skills necessary for babbling since this early language skill requires rhythmic repetitions as well.
- Babies often develop an interest in taking things apart and putting things together right before they say their first words. This suggests that there’s a common basis for both.
- Language is closely connected to action as babies learning to speak usually name things that they’re handling at the moment. Babies first learn to communicate through gestures and their first words grow out of these.
Also, when a child discovers a new motor skill, they get new ways of interacting with the world around them, such as:
- Children who are able to sit upright, which is a skill usually mastered at about 6 months of age, are in a better position to express themselves vocally. While they still have a long way to go before they can confidently jump on the trampoline, they’re on the right track to develop solid motor and speaking skills.
- Children between the ages of six and nine months love putting things in their mouths to explore them. It’s possible that this helps them practice positioning their lips, tongue, and teeth in new ways, which may be helpful for language production.
- As children become more mobile, they begin interacting more with the people around them. For example, mom and dad have to keep an eye on their curious crawler and communicate with them more effectively to keep them safe. In turn, this stimulates the development of speech and language.
- Once a baby begins walking and their hands are free to point to objects and manipulate them, they’re offered more opportunities for interaction. For example, they may carry items to show them to their parents, opening new possibilities for communication.
How to stimulate my baby’s motor and language development?
Here are some things that parents and caregivers can do to give a baby the best chance at developing successfully and rapidly:
- Have lots of tummy time, which is an important form of exercise for babies. Put the baby on their tummy on a solid surface while they’re awake and get their attention with toys of different colors, textures, and shapes. This helps them gain strength in their neck, arms, shoulders, and trunk.
- Talk to your baby while supporting your statements with gestures, such as pointing to the thing you’re naming. Vary your pitch and express genuine emotion to keep them interested.
- Don’t make your interactions one-sided. For example, ask them a lot of questions and give them an opportunity to answer. You can prompt their answers by giving them options to choose from and using gestures.
- Respond to their efforts to communicate with enthusiasm and excitement. This feedback in crucial in encouraging them to express themselves more.
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