While understanding norms regarding children’s communication development is necessary for speech-language pathologists, encouraging use of good language skills throughout a child’s day is necessary for parents and caregivers. Doing this provides opportunities to develop appropriate communication skills necessary for daily interaction with peers and adults. Not to mention, early language skills are crucial in determining a child’s future school success.
- Anticipate their needs, but allow them time to completely express them. When your child is trying to communicate with you, though you may already know what they would like, allow them a few seconds before responding or meeting their needs. This provides your child with the opportunity to initiate a conversation, make a request, or ask a question.
- Always speak to your child using complete sentences. This helps them learn grammatical structures while expanding their language skills. Only Reduce to short phrases and key phrases when it appears they are not understanding.
- Encourage your child to be a storyteller, even if they cannot read. The pictures of children’s books serve as great story starters to allow their imaginations to run wild.
- Use descriptive language. Avoid using words like “thing”, “stuff”, “it”, or “that.”
- Provide opportunities for your child to make choices by pointing, vocalizing, and using words. Expressing their own choices builds confidence and furthers the exploration of expressive language.
- Encourage small tasks where following instructions are vital. Start with simple requests that involve only one direction, then progressively add more directions as your child’s accuracy improves.
- Read books filled with pictures. Ask questions which can be answered easily with simple responses or by pointing to the correct picture. Try to make the activity fun, inviting, and easy going. If your child does not respond within 5-10 seconds, model the correct answer for them using a positive tone of voice.
- Allow time for turn-taking, which teaches conversational skills. Talk to your child and then pause to allow time to reply. This skill can also be taught during play while using objects and toys.
- Make eye contact. When communicating with your child, look at his or her face and eyes as often as possible. This helps your child learn that it is appropriate to look at others during communication. Children learn a great deal through facial expressions and acquire articulation skills by watching the movement of your mouth.
- Identify new and unfamiliar words in books, around the home, on drives or whenever you are with your child. Talk about what you are doing while you teach vocabulary and problem solving skills.
- Explore your community. There are always opportunities to model vocabulary outside the home. A trip to the market can be a great occasion to name and categorize items with your child.