#1: Talk to your child
One of the easiest ways to help your young child develop better language skills is to talk to them. Now this may sound a little too easy, but it’s true. A child needs to be exposed to many words each day . Research shows that young children need to hear 21,000 words per day in order to develop strong language skills. That may seem like a lot of words but it is completely possible and really not all that hard. Admittedly, this may be a one sided conversation when your little one isn’t talking much. As you go through your day, talk about everything you see and do. For example, if you and your child are taking a walk through the park , you can talk about all of the things around you. “Look at the birds Jack”. “The birds are flying up in the sky.” “See the little squirrel”. “Hi doggie”. You can talk about all of the things you put in the cart at the grocery store. “Juicy, red apples….yum” “Here are some crackers. Mommy eats crackers….crunch, crunch, crunch”. “Let’s get some cold milk”.
The expectant pause is a useful technique to use with children who are developing language skills. Basically, you say something and then wait for your child to respond just as you would with someone else. Your child comes to you and lifts his arms wanting to be picked up. You say “Up? Do you want up ?” and wait for the child. He may not say anything, or he may try to say “up”. You pick up the child and say “up up up you go”. At dinner, you can offer your child a choice of 2 items and wait for her to respond. For example, “Hannah, do you want milk or juice?”. Then you wait expectantly, and If Hannah reaches for the juice, you can say “Juice, you want juice”.
#3: The Plus 1 Rule
Once your little one starts to use single words, you can use the “plus 1 rule” to help them improve their language. Here’s how it works. Your child sees the family dog, points and says “puppy”. You acknowledge what they said and add another word to it saying “Yes, puppy, little puppy” or “soft puppy” or “puppy eating”. Your child says “juice” and holds out their cup. You respond with “more juice? ” or “Do you want more juice?” If your child is holding a ball and says “ball”, you respond with “big ball”, or “red ball”. Your child will need to have multiple exposures to each new word they hear before they can begin to understand it and then use it themselves.
#4: Read, Read, Read
Reading is one of the absolute best things that you can do with your child. It is never too early to begin to read to your child . You can even read to your baby in utero. Reading to your child will introduce them to new vocabulary words, sentence structures, and sequencing. They will begin to understand dialogue and back and forth conversational turn taking. As you read, stop and point to the pictures and ask your child to do the same. When you come across a word that may not be familiar to your child you can stop and explain the meaning of the word. For example, if you were reading a book about a horse, your child might not know the word “saddle”. You could show the child the picture of the saddle and explain that you put a “saddle” on a horse so that you can sit on it and ride the horse. As you read, you can talk about the parts of the book including the front cover, the spine, the pages, and words. You can point out that we read from left to right and point to each word as you go. You can teach them that the “author” is the person who “writes the words” and that the “illustrator” is the person who “draws the pictures” in the book. These things will help your child as they grow and become readers themselves.
#5: Follow your child’s lead:
Children learn best when they are truly interested in what they are learning about. If your child wants to play with blocks, sit on the floor beside them, and play blocks with them. Show them how to build a tower, and then knock it down together. You can then use the blocks to make a road for the toy cars. Show them how the cars can go “slow” or how they can go “fast”. Let your child take the lead and use the opportunity to follow along and expand your child’s play routine. If your child likes bubbles, you can show them “big bubbles” and “little bubbles”. You can show them how to “blow” the bubbles and try it themselves. You can “pop” the bubbles with your finger, or your foot, or your head….just have fun!
Are you ready to watch your child's speech and language skills grow? Your child will learn so much when you incorporate these 5 techniques. Give them a try and just wait for your child’s speech and language skills to blossom.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language skills, give us a call at 814-201-6670. The Speech Spot Pediatric Therapy LLC offers a FREE 15 minute phone consultation. We are happy to speak to you about any concerns you may have.