Children’s speech and language skills develop at different rates, and that’s ok. In fact, the range of what is considered ‘normal’ in speech and language acquisition is vast. Some children say their first words between 12-18 months and some children take a little longer. There are many ways to encourage the development of speech and language skills in children. The following tips are things you can do in the comfort of your own home with children any age. You can use these strategies to encourage understanding or use of first words. If your child is already speaking, you can use these tips to encourage new vocabulary and the combination of words to make phrases.
Speak to your child at their level. If you are sitting on a chair and your child is crawling on the ground it will be difficult for them to see your face, observe the movements of your mouth and identify what objects you are referring to. Don’t be afraid to get down to their level. Chatting to them face to face will increase their opportunity to take everything in.
Playing with your child is a great opportunity to work on new vocabulary. Talk to your child while you are playing. Describe what you are doing “building blocks, nice blocks, blocks fall down”.
Eye contact is important when communicating. Remember, communication is more than just words. Body language, intonation, eye –contact and facial expression are a big part of communication. By looking at your child and smiling at them you are letting them know you are there and ready to listen and communicate with them, even if you don’t use any words.
Eliminate background noises. Things like the radio, a loud washing machine or a vacuum cleaner can be distracting when communicating with your child.
Create communication opportunities for your child by offering them choices. Open questions can be very difficult to answer “what do you want to eat?” Reduce the language load and expectation by offering your child a choice “do you want an apple or a banana?”
Help your child by following their lead. Learning language doesn’t always need a structured activity.
Model, praise, encourage any attempt at communication. If your child is using words but they are not produced perfectly, try to model rather than correct.
Child: “it a noman”
Parent: “Yes! It is a snowman. Well done!”
Always model the correct version for your child but try to avoid correcting them as this can be discouraging.
Allow your child time to talk. Create communicative opportunities for your child during play and allow them to take turns talking with you.
Turn off the television. Even though children enjoy television, limit its use as they will learn more from talking with you.
Throw away the soother. Limit the use of soothers after the first year as it can interfere with how children produce sounds.
Enjoy communicating with your child. Working on language should be fun, for example, playing games like eye-spy in the car.
Read to your child. Reading a book together can be a great way to develop vocabulary and helps with building attention.
Speak to your Speech and Language Therapist if you have any concerns. Your local Speech and Language Therapist is there to help you and answer any questions you may have. SpeechMatters offer free phone consultations and would be happy to answer any queries you may have. If you would like to see any of the above tips in action you can watch the video on our website.
If you have any questions regarding your child’s speech and language development contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For a free phone consultation you can contact Aisling Keogh on 086-8570253, Jonathon Linkater on 087-1210044 or myself Síle O’ Shea on 087-7477529.
Article by Síle O’ Shea, Speech and Language Therapist B.A., M.Sc., M.I.A.S.L.T.
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