How To Help Your Child
The majority of a child's language development happens in their first 5 years. During this period of rapid brain development, the interactions between a child and their caregivers are the most important ingredient for learning to talk. Whether your child is yet to start talking or already a little chatterbox, these basic strategies are great for encouraging language development. They don't need to take up extra time, but are things you can incorporate into your daily interactions with your child.
Helping your Baby/Toddler/Pre-schooler
- Praise and respond to all attempts to communicate. This includes non-verbal communication, such as eye contact, gestures, sounds, facial expressions. Your response reinforces and encourages your child to keep communicating.
- Get down on your child's level.
- Use eye contact, gestures and facial expressions to accompany your words.
- Talk about things your child can see, touch, smell, hear and taste.
- Use a simple and direct style of speaking.
- Give your child time (at least 10 seconds) to respond. It takes children longer to process what we have said and to formulate a response, so give your child time before moving on.
- Sing songs with your child as often as possible. This a fun way for children to learn new words as they get to hear the lyrics over and over again.
- Read books with your child. This doesn't mean your child has to always listen to the story; you can follow your child's focus of attention and talk about the pictures they are looking at.
- Encourage imaginative play and play that requires language and interaction. Say the words that match with your child's actions.
- Even after the first 5 years, communication development continues and caregivers remain crucial in helping children to expand their vocabulary, increase their sentence length, learn to use difficult speech sounds, ask and answer questions and much more!
Helping your school-aged child
- If your child says a sound or sentence that does not sound quite right, repeat it back to them a few times as part of the conversation. (For example, Child: "I saw a wabbit" Parent: "Wow, a rabbit? You saw a rabbit?! Where did you see a rabbit?")
- When your child has given you a confused message, try prompting him or her with additional questions to clarify details of the message. This will provide your child with structure for their message.
- Describe new concepts in terms of things that the child already knows and the characteristics that they have. (For example, a "truck" has four wheels and a motor. It goes on the road just like a car but bigger.)
- Expose your child to new experiences and talk about them.
- Play games to increase vocabulary and practice recalling words e.g. Name 10 animals/foods/occupations/things made of wood etc.
- Encourage your child to think out loud.
- Ask open-ended questions (for example; What do you think will happen if ....? Why do you think...? I wonder what you could use this for...? How would you make a...? Why is this important? What do you think comes next?