How Language Skills Develop in School-Age Kids

language development - mother and daughter reading book in bed
Reading together every day is a great way to boost language skills and language development in kids. Jamie Grill/Getty Images

How well we communicate with others is not only a crucial foundation and skill for school, but for life. In the school-age years, kids will experience a dramatic change in language development. The difference between a child’s language skills at 5 years of age and his language skills at age 10 will be measurably different. Their vocabulary, grammar, and ability to express themselves will mature and grow, much like the way they shoot up and become physically bigger, stronger, and more coordinated.

Research shows that children who have good language skills tend to have better memory and good attention span, and, not surprisingly, tend to do better in school. Good language skills are also linked to healthy self-esteem and the ability to make friends easily.

You can expect some of these major language development shifts in your school-age child:

  • Their vocabulary will grow. Once children enter grade school, their vocabulary can be expected to expand exponentially as they learn new words, read more books, and learn to use language to express themselves.
  • They will make more complex sentences. As children progress from kindergarten through grade school, they will transition from making simple sentences to more complex, longer phrases that express their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. As they get older, they’ll become more adept at speaking and writing in more complicated and sophisticated sentences that increasingly resemble those of older children and adults.
  • They will enjoy playing with language. School-age kids love riddles, tongue-twisters, jokes, and songs as they flex their growing language skills.
  • They'll speak more accurately. They will make fewer grammatical errors while speaking and writing.
  • Their writing will grow. They will progress from writing short sentences in the early grades to writing longer, more complex essays and reports in the later grade-school years.
  • Their categorization skills will improve. They will begin to master concepts like similarities and opposites and will be able to group new vocabulary words into these categories.
  • They will be able to carry on longer and more meaningful conversations. As children develop deeper language skills, they will be able to express themselves more fully, using longer and more complex sentences and fleshed-out, logical sequences of thoughts. They will be able to converse about a topic for a longer period of time, and go into more depth and detail. The level of conversations with older school-age children will very much begin to resemble that of conversations with adults.
  • They will better articulate sounds. They'll also be able to better distinguish sounds and speech in noisy environments. Being able to distinguish sounds that are similar to each other, such as "bag" and "gag" are important for language development, according to research on brain development and music.

What Parents Can Do to Encourage Language Skills in Kids

There are lots of ways parents can help kids develop strong language skills every day.

The reading, writing, and vocabulary exercises they work on in school are important, but how you interact with your kids at home can have an enormous impact on their language skills.

  • Read lots and lots of books. At bedtime, after school, and during downtime on the weekends, read to and with your child. Reading together is not only a great way to boost your child's language skills, but it's a great way to stay connected. Read to your child and then have your child read to you (or read separate books side-by-side) as kids become stronger readers. Then talk about the book and get kids into the habit of sharing what they liked, didn't like, and whether they would recommend the book to friends and why.
  • Cut back on screen time, and get into this habit yourself. Occasionally having a fun family movie night is one thing; letting kids sit in front of the TV or play a video game for hours on end each day is another. When you stare at the screen, you are not communicating with each other.
  • Chat at dinnertime. Regular family dinners have been shown to improve kids' nutrition, give them strong emotional, mental, and emotional skills, and even improve kids' grades. They are also an excellent opportunity for parents and kids to stay close and talk about their day and what's going on in school, in their neighborhood, and the world. Strengthening your parent-child bond and improving their language skills at the same time? That's a win-win.

Continue Reading