It is important to cultivate a rich language environment to help your child’s language grow and flourish. There are lots of things you can do every day to increase the language input your child receives.
Give them a reason to talk to you
You understand what your child means most of the time, even if they aren’t telling you with words.
Maybe they hold your hand and take you to the fridge to tell you they want a snack, or maybe they point at the high shelf to tell you that they want what is on top. This is a great opportunity to get them to use their words.
You can help them out by scaffolding their speech. If they would like a book from somewhere up high, there are a few ideas you could try-
- Pause when they point to the book. Look at them, and give them time to say something.
- Asking them questions, ‘What would you like?’
- Using a binary choice, ‘do you want the book or the train?’
- Give them a sound clue, ‘Do you want the b….’
- If they’re not saying anything, give them the wrong thing on purpose, ‘oh you want Grandma’s slippers!’
Communication breakdown can be very motivating. If a toddler finds that pointing to something won’t achieve the desired outcome, they will look for alternative ways to get what they want.
Say it again!
Your child receives language input from many places but you might be the main one! So the things you say will influence the things they say. It’s important to model ‘good talking’. If your child makes an error, repeat the sentence back to them with the correction, for example if they say, ‘I dided it!’ you say, ‘yes, you did it!’. Repetition is a valuable tool.
If your child has a particular error that they use repeatedly, model lots of examples of the correct way to say that word or use that sounds. For example, if they sat ‘pish’ instead of ‘fish’, you might read the Rainbow Fish together and spend time looking at the pictures and emphasising the target sound, ‘Look at the beautiful fish! Here is a fish, and here is a fish, there is a lot of fish. There’s a big group of fish! Big fish, and little fish, and shiny fish. Blue fish, and red fish and rainbow fish!’
Every day ideas
There are hundreds of opportunities in a day to build language skills. Here are just a few ideas to work it into your routine.
- When your child is getting dressed in the morning, you can use the opportunity to name items of clothing, their colours, and what body parts they go on, e.g. ‘Blue socks today. They go on your… feet!’
- Ask your child questions that require a choice, ‘Would you like your red pants or green pants?’
- Talk about body parts and what they do, ‘this is my hand. I can give hi fives, I can hold your hand, and I can wave hello!’
- When you’re in the car together, talk to your child about spatial relationships- things that are first and last, right and left, and opposites, on and off, up and down. For example, when you’re stopped at the lights you could note things you can see, ‘Our car is first at the lights, and the bus is last.’ ‘We’re turning right, now left.’
- When out shopping, discuss what is on the shopping list. How many you need? What you will do with it? What is it’s colour, size, shape, weight?
- When you’re making dinner, encourage your child to name things you’re using, ‘What do I stir the soup with?’
- Encourage your child to identify items by using describing words, ‘Pass me the biggest potato,’ ‘Pass me the orange vegetable.’
- Talk about what you’re making. What does it smell like? What does it taste like? Where does it come from?
- Use prepositions when you ask them to do things, ‘put the serviette on the table/ under the fork/ in your lap.’
- Identify who things belong to, ‘it’s my serviette’, ‘it’s Sam’s serviette’
Our days are full of opportunities to enrich our children’s language. You don’t need to go out of your way to find the time to talk about the world around you.
Be careful not to make daily tasks an exercise in quizzing your child. It’s not useful to be constantly asking, ‘What’s this called?’. It’s more beneficial to create a fun, engaging environment where you’re providing lots of language input and giving them lots of opportunities for language output.