13 Ways To Encourage Language Development
The most common first word for a child may be “mama” or “dada” or maybe even “no”. We as parents and caregivers play an important role as we help our children begin to understand and use communication. Speech and language changes significantly from infancy to preschool. Within the first year infants babble, giggle, and imitate sounds, and by preschool-age, children are answering a variety of questions and sequencing basic stories. We as parents and caregivers can help support and guide speech and language development. The following are strategies that are helpful to support communication development:
- Reinforce and affirm communication attempts by looking at your child and listening to him/her when he/she vocalizes and speaks. Face your child when speaking.
- Teach your child to imitate actions, such as peekaboo, clapping, blowing kisses, and waving hi/bye. These games and actions will also help teach turn taking that is needed for conversation.
- Imitate your child’s cooing and babbling. Take turns “chatting” back and forth. Provide time for your child to respond.
- Talk while you are doing things, such as when playing, cooking, or running errands (e.g., “Mommy is walking to the car. I see the car. Where are my keys?”).
- Describe what your child is doing, such as “You have a baby. The baby is crying. Time to feed your baby”.
- Expand your child’s use of language. For example, if your child says “car,” you respond by saying, “Red car” or “Go car”.
- Find time to read to your child daily. When reading to your child, take time to name and describe the pictures on each page. Introduce new vocabulary when reading books. Point to pictures in the book.
- Look at family photos and name the people. Use simple phrases/sentences to describe what is happening in the pictures (e.g., “Sam swims in the pool”).
- Model play ideas and play interactions with other children. Coach your child to share, using language such as “My turn” or “May I have that?”.
- Sing! Sing familiar songs, such as the ABCs and Twinkle Twinkle, or sing made-up songs, such as “I’m washing, washing, washing, my hands”.
- Give your child time to learn and explore. Repetition is great!
- Model correct grammar within conversation. If your child says “Her going home,” you might say, “Yes, she is going home now”.
- When learning new speech sounds, point to your mouth as a cue. For example, point to your lips as you say “pop”. Tap out the syllables in words by tapping on the table or tapping on your child’s arm to increase speech sound intelligibility.
Learning and using language is a remarkable process. Continue to encourage and model language across all activities to help your child be successful.
Jessica Schumacher is a pediatric speech/language pathologist
and mom to 3 young children. She has work experience within
the medical and school settings and has organized social skills
groups within the community for preschoolers.