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10 Tips to Encourage Your Child’s Language Development

As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child’s language development. From the moment they are born, your child is learning to communicate and understand the world around them. By fostering a language-rich environment, you can help your child develop the skills they need to become effective communicators. 

Here are my top ten tips to encourage your child’s language development!

Tip 1: Be a narrator

We often see the tip, “talk to your child.” And even as an SLP, that tip annoys me. We are all talking to our children. You can talk all day long to your child, and he or she can still have a speech and language delay. 

So, I want you to change HOW you talk to your child. Be a narrator. Channel your inner Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough and talk about what you are doing, seeing and feeling. For example, “I see the doggy! What a furry guy. He is chasing the squirrel!” or “We’re going to the store to pick up chicken nuggets and mac & cheese for dinner.”

If you’re the parent of a baby under 12 months, one of my favorite things to do is engage in “conversation” with them. Essentially, you look into their cute eyes and speak to your baby. WAIT 5 seconds (it’s longer than you think!) for them to respond to you by vocalizing. Then rinse and repeat. This is so great for teaching back and forth interactions (and genuinely just heart-melting!).

It looks a lot like this with my 2 month old:

Tip 2: Read to Your Child

Reading is an excellent way to promote language development. Choose age-appropriate books and read to your child regularly (a great way to wind down and connect with your child before nap time and bedtime!). In addition to reading the story, point to pictures and describe what’s happening in the photo to engage them in the story. Personally, I like to read the story first, then go back through to look at the photos and describe what I see. 

Tip 3: Fill in the Blank

Singing and reciting nursery rhymes are fun ways to promote language development. These activities help your child learn the rhythm and patterns of language. Encourage your child to sing along or join in on the rhymes. 

After you’ve heard a song a million times, leave a word out and wait for your child to respond. It looks like this:

You: Old McDonald had a….. (pause)

Child: Farm! 

Tip 4: Follow Their Lead

Playtime is crucial for language development. Encourage your child to play with toys that promote communication, such as dolls, puppets, and stuffed animals. You can also engage in imaginative play with your child, taking turns to create stories and dialogues. 

There is a time and place for worksheet and workbooks, but with our toddlers and preschoolers, do what THEY want! Build language around their interests. If your child wants to play with Magnetiles, do it, and then use some of these language tips while playing with them. I want your child to buy-in to communication. It should be as relaxed and fun as possible! Too much pressure creates a hesitation to communicate.

Tip 5: Sounds First, Words Later!

Now we all can’t wait to find out what our child’s first word is going to be, but before we get to that point, children imitate sounds! So, if your child hasn’t spoken their first word yet, get down to their level, find some cars or animals, and make their sounds! Often children will make “moo, baa, beep beep”  before they say their first words.

Tip 6: Repeat and Expand

When your child speaks, repeat what they say and expand on their utterance. For example, if your child says, “doggy,” you can respond by saying, “a big white doggy.” This technique helps build your child’s vocabulary and models more complex language.

Tip 7: Be an Actress!

Before I wanted you to channel Morgan Freeman, now I want you to channel your inner Julia Roberts, and be an actress. Kids. Like. Drama. So, be it! Your child is going to find language more exciting if you are silly.

Dramatic gestures and facial expressions can help your child understand language. Point to objects as you name them, use gestures to indicate actions, and make exaggerated facial expressions to convey emotions.

Tip 8: Increase Comments, Not Questions

Life is not a test. Asking a lot of questions to a child who struggles to communicate creates a difficult barrier. Instead of asking constant questions during play (“What’s the bear doing? Is he going to the store? What is he going to buy?”), try commenting while you’re playing (“The bear is driving to the store. He’s excited to get ice cream!”). This actually happens to be one of the hardest language tips for parents.

Tip 9: Contact an SLP

If you suspect your child has a speech or language delay, seek out a profession. Speech therapy can provide your child with the tools they need to develop their communication skills. A speech-language pathologist can assess your child’s needs and develop an individualized therapy plan. You might even find out that your child is right on track! And that peace of mind means so much as a parent.

Tip 10: Be Patient and Encouraging

Language development takes time. Be patient with your child and encourage their communication efforts. Praise them for their attempts and successes, and reach out to a professional if you have concerns.

 

Do you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development? If you live in Frederick County, Maryland or Loudoun County, Virginia, book a free 15-minute phone consultation to learn how I can help your child with early intervention.

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