You want to hear your child talk. As a parent, those first words or sounds — whether it happens in the first year or beyond — are music to your ears.
Creating a language-enriched environment for your child can help them thrive and learn. There are things we can do across our child’s day — no matter their age or language level — to embed opportunities to focus on communication. These are helpful strategies for students with typical language development and for those with delays.
Birth to Age 1
Teach your baby to imitate actions, like peek-a-boo, waving bye bye and blowing kisses. This teaches your baby how to take turns.
Talk about what you are doing during the day. Say things like, “You are drinking milk” or “Mommy is reading a book.”
Read to your child every day. There are so many fun board books to explore!
Ages 1 to 2
Use short words and sentences that your child can imitate. Say things like, “I like oatmeal” or “ I am happy.”
Add words to what your child says. If your child says, “apple,” you can say, “That is right. That is a red apple.”
Read to your child daily. Talk about the pictures on the page.
Ages 2 to 3
Let your child know that what they say is important to you. This lets our little ones know that their communication is powerful.
Teach your child new words as they come up in the environment. If you are trying a new food, like asparagus, describe to your child what this is.
Start to introduce colors, shapes and counting. This can be done in everyday activities. You could say things like, “The ball is a circle” or “I have two boxes.”
Look at family photos and talk about what people are doing in the pictures. Children enjoy talking about people they are familiar with and love.
Sing songs and nursery rhymes. These fun activities introduce the concept of rhyming.
Ages 3 to 4
Start to discuss how different items are grouped into categories, like food, shapes and animals.
Read books with simple stories. Talk about the story and have your child start to retell the story.
Ask your child questions about the story; this helps to develop comprehension skills.
Engage in pretend play like cooking food and playing dress-up. This will help to develop play skills and social skills.
Ages 4 to 5
Play word games by giving your child clues and having them guess the word you are describing. You could say, “It is a fruit and it is yellow.” They’ll light up when they answer “banana.”
Give your child attention when they are talking.
Teach your child to ask for help when they need it.
Give your child two-step directions: “Get your coat and put it on.”
Play board games with your child. This will help them learn how to follow rules and take turns with others.
If your child already receives speech therapy services:
You are a vital part of the team. Your input about communication is essential. Ask to sit in on therapy sessions, if possible. This will allow you to learn about the strategies being used to help your child increase their communication skills. Ask the therapist what you can do at home to help your child become a more effective communicator.
If you suspect a delay:
If you suspect that your child has a delay, seek help. At any time, you can contact a speech language pathologist. SLPs can be found in your area working in schools, hospitals and private practice.