Young children are actually more aware of language then we give them credit for. Younger children have a limited variety of ways to establish that they actually understand us and may lacy the ability to express their thoughts, caregivers however would do well to look for such competence and express appreciation towards a child when they do show signs of comprehension.
Why is this important though?
As many things are in the development of a child, Understanding and comprehension are fundamentals in communication and language. Similar to listening, children add to their vocabulary and expressions by comprehending the meanings of words such as “above, under, who, where, etc…”
How a caregiver can be of help
Younger children with a smaller vocabulary may not have the words to form perfect sentences and may communicate in simple sentences instead. However it is easily visible that they do understand concepts such as dunking a cookie into a glass of milk before eating it. Caregivers could provide a running commentary when a child performs various actions to help children associate actions with words.
Speak to them in a similar capacity as an adult; keep questions and instructions for older children simple and clear with proper structure. Introduce more than one instruction in a sentence, such as “wash your hands and then take your seat”. Using visual stimulation to go along with more in depth instructions such as a demonstration or a picture will help children associate with the task at hand more clearly.
Understanding is the first form of communication children will show in their development. By responding to an instruction or picking up an object you’ve called for indicates comprehension, planting the initial seeds for language building.