If you are concerned about your child’s language development the best thing you can do is see a Speech Pathologist. But perhaps it’s not possible for you to access support immediately, but you’d like to be doing something while you wait. Maybe you have a child who you feel could benefit from just little bit of extra help, even though their language is within the normal range. Whatever the reason, if you want to help boost your child’s language development, here are 10 tips for things you can do at home.
1. Talk every day. The most important thing your child needs to develop their language skills is to hear you talk. Spend as much time interacting with your child as you can. This doesn’t have to be playing or doing structured activities together. You can talk while you do just about anything – cooking, washing, getting dressed… Talk as much as you can. Try to limit the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen and substitute interaction instead. Most of my son’s first words came from doing housework together!
2. Get on the same level. When you are talking, it will help keep your child’s attention if you are on the same level. If they are playing on the floor, get down on the floor with them. If you are cooking at the bench, perhaps they can stand on a chair beside you. Having easy access to your face makes it easier for your child to watch and hear how you speak and will make them more likely to copy you.
3. Take a step back and let your child lead. Watch what your child is interested in and talk about that. While playing, wait a few moments and see what your child does. Talk about what they did and what you are doing. Too often we are busy talking about one thing, while our children are focused on something different entirely.
4. Add words to every activity. Talk throughout the day. Talk about what you are doing, what your child is doing, things you can see. It could be while cooking, cleaning, travelling, eating, bath time, getting dressed. Whatever you are doing, think about how you can add language by talking as you go.
5. Give lots of encouragement and praise. Be positive and talk about what your child has done well. Make your praise specific (e.g. instead of “good job!” try “Good talking!” or “I like the way you said that”).
6. Demonstrate a variety of new words. Teach your child about new things, and help them learn the names of new things, but it’s also important to teach your child a variety of other words as well. Talk about actions, how things feel, how things look, where things are, and feelings.
7. Fix up your child’s mistakes. If your child makes a mistake when talking, repeat what they have said back to them with the mistake fixed up. Put extra emphasis on the part you have fixed. If you can repeat the corrected word a few times, that’s even better! (e.g. if you child said “I runned really fast” you could say “Oh, you ran. You ran really fast. You ran to the swings. You’re good at running.”).
8. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Our kids learn by hearing. Children need to hear new words and new grammar many times before they start to use it. Repeat new words, and relate things back to what your child already knows. Repeat songs, books, and activities as well as words. Nursery rhymes can be great for repetition.
9. Read lots, read often. Reading is amazing for the development of a whole variety of skills, and is one of the best things you can do for your child’s language development. Read as often and for as long as you can. Repeat your child’s favourite books (remember repetition is good!) but be sure to include new books too. Regularly introducing new books will give your child exposure to new words and ideas. For more ideas on this check out our free parent course on this topic: How to Read with Your Child (and LOVE it!)
10. Enjoy variety. Just like repetition is important, so is variety. New activities, words and ideas help your child to learn to use language in different situations, and to build up a broad vocabulary. If you can, try doing some special activities every now and then (a trip to the beach, visit a zoo etc.) that will allow you to find new things to talk about.
Happy talking everyone!