The most natural and enjoyable way for children to learn language is through face-to-face interaction and play. Here are some practical strategies that you can use in everyday situations to help to develop your child’s communication skills.
○ Get face to face with your child to encourage him/her to take the lead. Sometimes this may involve laying on the floor or bending down to their level!
○ Observe: Observe your child’s body language, what he/she might be interested in at the moment.
○ Wait: Look at your child expectantly to tell him/her that you are ready to listen to what he/she has to say.
○ Listen: Pay attention to all of what your child is trying to say. This lets your child know that what he/she is saying is important to you.
Tip: Asking your child to say words for you might is generally not a motivating way to encourage him/her learn talk. When children feel pressured, they are less likely to engage. Communication develops when a child has something to say and knows that someone will listen.
o Helping your child to make a request: e.g. place a favourite toy in view but out of reach or offer a little bit of a snack/drink and then waiting for your child to ask for more.
○ Picking an activity that your child might need help with: e.g. a wind-up toy, bubbles, opening a screw-top lid.
○ Offering a choice: e.g “Would you like a snack or a toy?”
○ Pausing a familiar activity/routine: e.g. after a few rounds of peek-a-boo, pause after “peek-a-” to create an opportunity for your child to continue.
○ Changing a familiar activity/routine: e.g put your child’s hat on their tummy or socks on their hand.
○ When things go wrong, wait. e.g. when milk gets spilled or cutlery falls on the floor, wait for a few seconds for your child to react before fixing these problems.
o Respond immediately with interest.
o Join in and play with whatever he/she is playing with.
o Imitate your child’s actions, facial expressions, sounds, and words.
o Interpret your child’s message – using words to describe what you think your child is trying to tell you with his/her actions and words.
o Using simple, clear language, comment on what your child is saying or doing at the moment.