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In my experience as a special educator, I have found speech and language development as one of the top concerns for parents. If a child displays developmental delays in some way that is not as obvious as a physical deficit, a delay in speech and language is one of the first things that parents notice. Since we all need new language skills to be able to think, learn and socialize, it is important that we maximize our children’s abilities to express themselves, use language appropriately and to follow directions. When do we start encouraging speech and language development? The time to begin speech and language development is from birth! Children from birth up to the age of 5 years old learn language skills very rapidly. So, it is important that parents speak to their children continuously to encourage language skills. Even though I am not a speech and language therapist these are the things that I did in my classroom to encourage speech and language development.
- Read, read, read aloud! Name people, label items, and point out objects. For babies and infants, sing phrases and words. Babies love to hear anything in a sing songy voice.
- Speak a lot. Tell them what you are doing, what’s going around the house, and/or out running errands.
- Participate in storytelling. Make up stories or read books. You can also use wordless books to create a story around the pictures. For older children, you can ask them to describe what is happening in the pictures.
- Sing. Sing to your child and provide them music. This helps with memory skills, repetition, and listening skills.
- Ask open ended questions. Instead of asking questions that warrant a “yes” or “no,” ask “who,” “what,” and “where” questions. For example ask, “Who are you playing with?” or “What are you doing?”
- Get on your their level. Get on the floor and play with your child. Make eye contact and engage in conversation with them.
- Do things together as a family. This gives you a chance to engage in shared experiences and for your child to participate in reciprocal language skills.
- Listen. When engaging in conversation, listen to them! This will create more conversation between you and your child.
- Elaborate. For example, if your child says “It fall.” Say, “Yes. The ball fell off the bed. It fell right off!”
Remember, that language is best learned through everyday experiences. Continue to speak to your child on a daily basis to encourage speech and language development and stimulate learning.