Marian Hogan Speech and Language Therapist at The Children’s Clinic Cork
BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy, MIASLT, CORU Registered
- Interact at your child’s level: when you are interacting with your child try to make sure that you are face to face with them at their level. This may mean that you are lying down on the floor with them but joining them at their level will ensure that they can see you face as you communicate with them and you will be better able to see what interests them in their environment. This will help develop their attention and social interaction skills.
- Join in: join in your child’s play and try to see the world through their eyes – you may quickly grow tired of playing peek-a-boo or rolling a ball back and forth but once they are engaged in the activity and enjoying it they will learn language and the repetition reinforces this language learning. Don’t be afraid to act silly and play like a child would!
- Imitate: imitate your child’s facial expressions, gestures, sounds and actions. This will show that you are attending and engaging with them and trying to understand their communication attempts. It may also set up some two-way interaction where you take a turn by imitating and they may then take a turn by doing or saying the same thing again or doing something different.
- Use gesture: gesture is a strong marker of future language development and communication success so by you using natural gesture (e.g. waving, pointing) in addition to verbal language it will help your child’s communication development.
- Sound play: children typically love to experiment with their voice and sounds from an early age so join in the fun and make lots of silly sounds like blowing rasberries, sounds like animal noises as well as vowel sounds and early consonants like ‘ba’, ‘da’, ‘ma’ to provide your child with a good speech model and encourage them to imitate you in time. Also, don’t forget to imitate their sound productions and get face to face when playing with sounds!
- Model and label: you will be your child’s best language teacher so be mindful olabelling people, objects, and actions that interest them in their environment. By observing what interests them and following their lead you will be providing the vocabulary that they need and building their understanding of words which will in turn lead to their expression of these words in time.
- Interpret: while your child is developing language, it will help them if you interpret their attempts at communication accurately. So, for example if your child is looking at their teddy across the room you say, “oh your teddy, you would like to play with your teddy”. If your child is becoming verbal they may say ‘bu’ to mean bubbles so you interpret for them and label “bubbles, let’s blow some bubbles”.
- Expand: once your child begins using about 50 single words they may start combining words to form short phrases. You can help them with this step by expanding on their single word. So, for example if your child says ‘ball’ you might say “the blue ball” or “kick the ball” adding one other word.
- Balance comments and questions: it is generally instinctive to ask your child lots of questions when interacting or playing such as “what’s this?”, “what colour is it?”, “what does the cow say?”, but this is not very helpful for the child who is developing their language. Instead try to turn questions into comments such as “it’s a car”, “it’s a red ball”, “the cow says moo” and then you will be giving your child the language model and vocabulary that they need
- Read: a final tip is to read, read, read!! Reading books together with your child is such a lovely bonding activity as well as being a fantastic way to develop their language, both receptive and expressive, and early literacy skills. Early books with textures and sounds are lovely for younger children while lift the flap and repeat phrase books such as ‘Dear Zoo’ are nice for older preschoolers.
I hope you enjoy trying out some of these tips with your children and helping them develop their early communication skills! Marian.