Why Is Language Development Important to a Child?

Language and the ability to use language symbolically sets humans apart from the rest of the animal world. It allows people to express thoughts, ideas and emotions, and communicate with others. New research conducted by scientists at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington reveals that early language development begins in the womb and continues throughout a life time.

Receptive Language

Receptive language refers to the ability to decode and understand spoken language 1. Children's receptive language begins developing as they listen to the world around them and begin to understand language. Parents and caregivers that immerse children in an environment rich in language help the child develop strong receptive language skills. This includes speaking directly to the child, as well as providing opportunities for the child to observe conversations between adults and/or other children. It also includes reading aloud to children. Children typically understand many words long before they are able to verbalize them. This prepares the child for spoken language.

Expressive Language

Expressive language refers to the ability to use language to speak -- or write, as the child get older -- and communicate needs, emotions and express thoughts. Encouraging your child to ask for what he wants, instead of meeting his needs immediately, and routinely talking with your child, helps him build expressive language skills. Children who development good expressive language skills are prepared to communicate effectively when they enter school or encounter the outside world.


Children with good receptive and expressive language skills understand the nuances of language and are generally better able to tackle reading skills 1. Those with experience with books already understand that the written word contains information that must be decoded. Learning to read follows the natural progression of language development. Reading opens the child's world and allows him to access information and ideas from around the globe. Reading can become a source of entertainment and enjoyment, but also serves as an effective means of gaining knowledge.


Learning to express herself in written language is an important skill that takes years to master. Encouraging and rewarding your child with praise when she makes her first initial attempts sets the stage for developing effective writing skills. As your child matures and tackles more complex writing tasks throughout her school years, she will master the art of written language as a means to communicate thoughts and desires, and convey information to others.

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