This new year, resolve to take an active role in your child’s language development. Encouraging language development doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming: rather, it should be quick, natural, and interspersed throughout the day. Check out these tips for easy activities that can be done in the car, while you’re cooking, or during almost any of your family’s daily activities.
Talk, talk, talk…and then talk some more! Young children learn the majority of their language skills from their parents, so talk to your kids as much as you can!
- Narrate daily activities: Narrating is an easy way to keep talking without running out of things to say. Plus, it helps kids learn new concepts and vocabulary.
- Make comments, and reduce the number of questions you are asking. Commenting allows you to take your conversational turn without pressuring your child for an answer on the spot. This also makes conversations more enjoyable for kids…no one likes to feel as if they are being interrogated!
- Use simple, but grammatical sentences. Children need to hear proper grammar before they are able to use proper grammar. Parents may be tempted to use baby talk to make things simpler for their child to understand, but try to limit it as much as possible.
- Expand on your child’s utterances. This strategy not only validates what your child is saying, but offers exposure to additional words and teaches him or her to use longer utterances. For example, if your two year old says “look car”, you can say “That’s a big car! It’s a big red car”. If your four year old says “I see a car”, you can say “Wow! I see the car too. Look how big it is! I wonder if it’s longer than our car”.
- Play word games, and change them up depending on your child’s age. Two and three year olds can play yes/no games, threes and fours can play rhyming games, and five and six year olds can play guessing games based on descriptions (“I’m thinking of something that’s red and crunchy. You can find it in the kitchen and sometimes eat it for snack”) or category games. All of these are great to do in the car!
- Read: There are an endless amount of activities that you can do with books. Try describing pictures, making predictions, asking questions about the story, or talking about characters’ feelings. If you don’t like to talk while you read, that’s okay too. Exposure to books increases kids’ print awareness and early phonological skills. Want more ideas on how to make story time even better? Check out our article on Interactive Book Reading.
- Model correct pronunciation. If your child says something incorrectly, model the correct way to say it without asking them to repeat after you. Remember, young children may not be motorically capable of making certain sounds. It is perfectly fine if your three year old’s favorite animal is a “wabbit” and favorite food is “pasketti”. When he or she says the word, repeat it back correctly. This is also a great opportunity to expand (see above): “I want spaghetti, too. That sounds delicious”. When modeling the correct pronunciation, you can slow down your speech and slightly emphasize the target words.
- Play: Really, let them play! Arrange playdates for your child with different children, and let them develop their own play schemes. Self-directed play has been shown to boost creativity and help kids establish independence. Additionally, playdates are the perfect settings for young children to work on a variety of social communication skills, including sharing, negotiating, turn-taking, perspective-taking, and cooperative play.
- Slow down when talking to your child. This is a twofold process: reduce your pace, and also wait a second or two before taking your conversational turn. This will give your child a bit more time to process what you are saying, and give your child the chance to take a conversational turn in case he or she has something to add. Please, please, don’t interrupt! Show your child that what they have to say is important to you!
- Variety: Using a variety of words in your speech is an awesome (and easy) way to build your child’s vocabulary. Plus, the amount of words a child hears before age three has been tied directly to intelligence. Some studies suggest that children who hear more words have higher IQs and perform better in school.
For more ideas on how to boost your child’s speech and language skills through everyday activities, visit our Facebook page. For information regarding our unique therapy process or to schedule an evaluation, check out our website or call (914) 893–2223.