How You Can Develop Language with Your Child

Your child’s first three years of life are the most intensive period for speech and language development. Children learn through modeling, imitation, and most importantly, through play. There are many important strategies that can be used when targeting language in young children.

  • Be Face to Face with your child, if the child is sitting at the table then sit at the table with him/her.  If they are laying on the floor then lay on the floor with them.  Be sure they can see your mouth and eyes.

  • Keep It Simple- Use simple words, keeping it to 1-2 word phrases. Use a variety of different words such as action words, nouns, location words, descriptive words.

  • Label,  Repeat and Interpret- Label all objects and actions while playing, reading books, driving in the car, playing at the park, giving your child a bath. Repeat each label multiple times so the child is exposed to the words numerous times during a single activity. It is important to target language during all daily activities/routines.

  • Reduce Questions/Ask Good Questions- Always label an object instead of asking a child “what is that?” If you are unsure what the child wants then you can ask them, “What do you want?” or “What are you looking for?” If you already know the answer to the question then you should not ask the question.

  • OWLing- Observe, Wait, Listen- Observe what the child is doing, wait to see if the child will respond with a word or a sound or gesture, and listen for any attempt at an approximation to your model.

  • Turn Taking- A turn can be a physical turn with a game or a toy or it may be that the child makes eye contact with you when it is their turn.  A turn may be a gesture, a word or a single sound.  Anytime the child responds in any way to you it can be considered a turn.

Words to Develop Language During Daily Routines

  • Bath Time - Target words like "water" while running the bath or putting water on the child; "splash" when splashing in the water; "wash" while washing the child; "soap" while getting ready to wash your child; "duck" or labelling the toys in the bath; and "swim" while make the toys swim in the water.

  • Playing at the park - target words like "swing" or "push" while the child is playing on the swing; "slide" or "up/down" while using the slide; "fast" when using the swing, slide, or just when running around the park, "wee" on any of the equipment, "climb" on the slide or any of the jungle gym equipment, and "stop/go" can be used on the swing or the slide.

  • Reading a book - Label all of the pictures and what noises the animals make, describe the objects in the book (eg. Big dog, small duck, colors; yellow duck, brown dog etc.)

  • Dinner time - Have your child help you set the table and label utensils, label what everyone around the table is doing (e.g. eating, drinking, cutting, chewing), describe the food (e.g. color, taste, etc.)

  • Driving in the car- Label other vehicles or things you see when driving.

The more language a child is exposed to the more chance that this will enhance their vocabulary and language development.  So keep these easy strategies listed above in mind and watch your child’s language and vocabulary blossom.
Note:  These strategies are taken from Hanen programs.