Speaking requires confidence, especially in front of a group or in a new situation and so when you shove your child forward in front of a stranger and demand that they talk to the “nice lady” it is unsurprising that your child clams up and buries his face in your leg.


The following are suggestions to encourage the reluctant speaker to start talking.

Self Talk

 This method is just what it says. YOU talk out loud about what YOU are seeing, doing, or hearing as you do it.  The child should be nearby or at least in hearing range when you are talking so that he can make connections between what you say and what is happening.

Use single words and short simple phrases.  A running commentary of non-stop talking in long sentences will make it difficult for your child to make the connection between what he is hearing and the correct word associated with the object/action. Use activities of daily living such as mealtimes. E.g. “chicken” “chicken on the plate” “chicken and peas” “yummy chicken”.



This method is partly used in the above methods as well.  Words and statements are used to describe, label and explain objects.  This introduces adjectives in addition to the noun and verb labels you started with.  Examples are “Big ball”  “Hot coffee” “My blue shirt.”  “The juice is cold.”

Sentence Completion

This technique demands a response by requiring your child to complete your sentence. You can use this technique from single words through to phrases.

For example, you could say:

The boy is in the ……

You try and get your child to finish with “bath”.

  • help your child finish the sentence by using gestures and facial expression
  • remember, only use this technique to draw out words / phrases you know your child already knows
  • Use familiar stories and songs to encourage your child to complete sentences



Talking to children is fundamental to language development, but sometimes it’s the WAY that we talk, that is the difference between success and failure.


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