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    How To Help Kids Discover Language

    Language, and how well a kid grasps it, is one of the strongest predictors of school success. Aged five, a child should know how to construct a reasonably complex sentence and understand around 6000 words. In their new book Talking Baby: Helping your child discover language, language development experts Margaret Mclagan and Anne Buckley have collated the most recent research into how babies learn to talk, and created a road-map for how parents can encourage it. The best advice they can give? In the beginning, don't worry how stupid you feel - just talk. When a baby is a newborn the content doesn't matter, and language learning has already begun in the womb. "They will already know the pitch and rhythm of Mum's voice from being in utero", Maclagan says.

    "For a lot of women who have been out of the workforce it can be difficult, especially when we're told talking to ourselves is the first sign of being crazy. But it's really just talking, about what you're doing and what they're doing." And babies understand much more than adults think. "There is a lot going on before you hear anything from them."

    At all ages it is important to simplify some language to the level the child can respind to and use. Imitating a baby, putting their words into a simple sentence, encouraging what they say through repetition, and talking about what you see becomes more important from about six months, Buckley says.

    The age at which children learn aspects of language varies widely - far wider than movement milestones - and often babies will be communicating more than their parents realise. Also, small children will often have a burst of progress in either motor skills or speech, or both. So if a baby is more skilled at walking or jumping, they might not talk as much. "When they're younger, I'm more interested in whether they understand what you say. Talking comes much later," Maclagan says. Exploring books, describing actions, playing word games and singing songs are all great ways to help a pre-schooler learn language.