10. Start by getting to know the language environment of the family. Who speaks which language? What is their country of origin? What are some of their holidays and cultural traditions? Be responsive in your program.
9. Beyond a home language survey, get to know pre-K families personally through home visits, meetings or phone conversations.
8. Ask parents how to pronounce the toddler’s name AND what they call their parents and other key family members (my granddaughter calls me “Nannie”. She would not be comforted if you said “your grandma will be here soon”.)
7. List about 20 key words or phrases that would help a toddler feel safe and comfortable in your program (i.e. nap, outside, change, eat, drink, hug, yes, no, etc). Send the list home with a mini-recorder so parents can say the words and you can learn to pronounce them how the toddler hears them at home.
6. Find out the songs and rhymes the family enjoys at home such as lullabies or current hits. Try to learn them in the home language or use the familiar melodies to include English words as well.
5. Toddler talk is always hard to decipher. Record their talk and ask the parents to help you recognize the words they are trying to say so you can respond accordingly.
4. Enhance your communication by using sign language for key words and help the toddlers to use sign language to clarify their meanings as well.
3. Be an acting coach. Make a conscious effort to help toddlers learn to SHOW you what they want or need with gestures or by acting things out.
2. Videos, recordings, and computer programs will not be the best option for toddler language support. Recruit and train bilingual staff and volunteers to interact with toddlers in their home language as much as possible.
1. Practice language learning skills such as listening for different sounds, playing with different voices, making silly rhymes or alliterations, and reading favorite stories over and over again to build understanding.