7 Tips To Encourage Speech And Language Development

Communication is an essential skill for all. Speech and Language development is crucial for communication and as parents, there’s plenty you can do to encourage speech and language from early on. We spend the most time with our children, so how we interact and talk to them can have a big impact on their development. Although it might seem to happen seamlessly without any effort, learning to talk and develop speech is a complex process that takes plenty of practice and repetition.   

The development of speech and language in children begins early on when they are infants. At the earliest, crying is how children communicate their needs. Babies then move on to establishing eye contact, cooing and smiling at their caregivers to communicate. By the end of the first year, children attempt to make their first words. 

Here are easy and fun ways to encourage speech and language in your child. 

1. Provide a language-rich environment

This might seem obvious but talking to your baby a lot, even when they can’t speak is an effective way to encourage communication. You can start this from day one, by talking to your child about what you are doing, like dressing them up, taking them for a bath or when it’s playtime. You can describe to them, things in their environment, what you see and who is around. You can do self-talk, which is talking about what you are doing and also parallel talk, which is narrating what your child is doing. Both provide them with a language-rich environment to learn from. 

2. Respond to your baby's sounds

When your child coos or babbles, they are communicating with you, so respond to them like you’re having a conversation. Your baby may not understand what you are saying, but the tone of your voice and your expressions let them know that you enjoy listening to them. When your baby smiles, respond to it with a smile or an exaggerated expression, like a funny face or laugh. When your child begins to make sounds like ma, da, say different sounds and encourage your baby to say them back to you. Your reactions can encourage them to initiate more often. 

3. Read them books

Reading books has so many benefits to child development. This is not just helpful to encourage language development but also a great way to bond with your child. When they are very young, use board books with colourful pages to catch their attention. As they grow older, you can prompt them to point to pictures in the book or use lift the flap books to encourage interaction. Storytelling also helps to encourage communication.

4. Be conscious of the baby talk

It’s difficult to completely avoid baby talk, especially when children start babbling and making sounds for familiar activities. But make sure to model good speech and use the correct words for things just as often. You can use your child’s words for activities so that it sounds familiar to them but make sure to include the right word too. “Oh, you want to have your um um, come let’s have dinner”.

5. Labelling

Give them the word for things they observe and notice. When children point out objects of interest, label and comment on it. “Yes, I see there’s a car outside, that’s a red car, it goes vroom vroom.” When you’re outside, you can help them label vehicles, animals, places. You can also teach them to label body parts and pictures they notice in a book. And use these opportunities to build more conversation. “Oh look, there’s a dog here. What does the dog say? Woof!.” You can use any activity at all that the child is engaged in to teach them more words. Like soap, water, shampoo while having a bath or labelling the food they are eating or what they are playing on at a park. You can even show them a photo book and talk to them about different family members and events. 

6. Sing to them

Most babies love music and singing. Simple nursery rhymes are not only soothing to their ears but can also encourage interaction. Rhymes like “round and round the garden”, “one piggy went to the market” can teach your child to anticipate actions and with a few repetitions, they’ll eagerly await for you to complete actions or as they grow older, fill in the missing words. Some songs can be sung along with actions and this will encourage your baby to try to imitate your actions as well. Try “Clap your hands” or “Row your boat”.

7. Modelling

Sometimes, children may not know what to say or ask for or communicate only through gestures such as pointing. You can encourage your child to communicate by modelling the words for the situation. Eg; when they are finding it difficult to open a pop-up toy, you can say “open this”. Your child may not say it immediately, but repetition does help. Children learn immensely from imitation, so watching and hearing you fill in words and phrases for them provides them with a great vocabulary to pick up from. 

Paying attention to your child when they initiate communication is encouraging to them. As they grow older, ensure to show interest when they talk to you and share something. Using a wider vocabulary will help them build better language skills too.

Although these milestones can guide us on typical development that we can expect, we must remember that all children develop and achieve speech and language milestones at their own pace. However, if you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, the Speech and Language Pathologists at Tactopus can help you. Do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

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