10 Easy Ways to Cultivate a Language Rich Environment in Your Home
Cultivating a language rich environment in your Montessori home may actually be easier than it seems! We will review 10 easy steps for immersing your child into a world rich with language right at home, but first, let us explore how Maria Montessori developed such a unique approach to language acquisition.
Maria Montessori recognized the importance of immersing a child into a language-rich environment more than a century ago. In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori speaks of the importance of language development, “Not only does it fuse men into groups and nations, but it is the central point of difference between the human species and all others. Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization.”
From the prepared environment to the prepared adult, various elements of the Montessori pedagogy lend itself naturally to the cultivation of a world full of language. Dr. Montessori developed materials including the sandpaper letters and the movable alphabet that help to lay a solid foundation for language exploration and development, but children in a Montessori environment are regularly exposed to language before they even touch a material on the shelf! As one of the most important aspects of the prepared environment, the prepared adult offers a vital component to language exposure and development—the art of spoken language. Not only are children joyfully greeted each and every day, but they receive implicit and explicit lessons on speaking and listening. The precise and deliberate exposure to spoken language creates a solid foundation for literacy.
So how do you create this solid foundation for literacy in your own home?
Here are 10 easy ways to cultivate a language rich environment in your home:
- Create a prepared environment that has a variety of age-appropriate books on various topics with beautiful illustrations and diversity. (Check out this list of diverse books for Infants/Toddlers and Early Childhood learners and this list for Elementary students.)
- Sing songs (or play recorded songs) and read poetry together.
- Play “I Spy” with your child.
- Label objects in your child’s environment by sportscasting your actions, “I’m going to get some water from the refrigerator” and by providing them vocabulary at their request such as when they point to a person, place, or thing. For example, you might say, “Yes, that’s an oak tree.” or “Wow, you see a peacock!”
- Read with your child every day. There are tremendous benefits for reading aloud to children—even those who are already fluent readers.
- Tell true stories with a beginning, middle, and ending every day. You can explain what happened on your commute to work or tell them about the deer you saw in the woods. Share lots of details.
- Listen intently to your child’s stories and ask questions when they are finished to help them share details.
- Include your child in family discussions. Let them hear the back and forth nature of the conversation and, if they are old enough to engage verbally, ask them to share their thoughts and opinions on the topic.
- Include your child in social situations. Allow them to watch how you engage with others on the phone or in the neighborhood and invite them to join the conversation.
- Enjoy shared mealtimes together and engage in meaningful reciprocal conversations. Practice taking turns speaking and listening.
Throughout each of these experiences, it is important to articulate carefully and speak slowly. Using rich vocabulary when communicating with, or around, your child will encourage the expansion of their own vocabulary. Use words like vertebrate, invertebrate, mammal, flora, fauna, and biome to help them begin to understand, and discuss, the world around them. Help them attach language to their feelings by using phrases such as, “It looks like you are sad. Here is what I look like when I am sad.” Modeling or mirroring facial expressions for your child will begin to allow them to link emotions and vocabulary in a very natural manner.
These engaging, immersive experiences allow your child to acquire a rich spoken language that helps to adequately prepare them for the next stage of their language development and exploration journey when they will develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, written language.
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori in-home teacher and nanny, a Montessori educational consultant for the Andrew’s Institute, a Montessori educator for adult learners, and a volunteer moderator for the Montessori at Home 0 – 3 Facebook page. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a School Psychologist intern. She is AMS credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.