Early language development is critical to a child’s future in education and almost every other aspect of life.
It doesn’t matter that every parenting book or article that you come across says “don’t compare your child to other children or their siblings.” The fact of the matter is that you do!
So how can you help your toddler learn to talk and foster a strong communicative bond?
Parents are often the best “therapists” when it comes to language development because you spend the most time with your child and you know your child best. Whilst speech and language therapy may be necessary, one or two sessions a week cannot provide sufficient language stimulation.
There are a number of strategies that can be used to stimulate language development which I will discuss in a series of posts
Slow down and Model Language
Modelling the language you want your child to use doesn’t always come naturally. In our busy lives we often anticipate our child’s every need. So when your child looks at the fridge, instead of running to get him something to drink, MODEL the word “bottle” or “juice” THEN give him what he wants and LABEL the item as you give it to your child. If you don’t model the correct word for your child, then how will he know that he needs to communicate with a word rather than a look or a grunt?
By changing the inflection in your voice, you can change the function of a word. For example “bottle?” with a rising inflection means “Do you want your bottle?” In this way you are clearly communicating to your child, that when he wants his bottle, he needs to use a word. Using one word to express a whole idea (by changing the inflection) also makes it very clear to the child what the salient word is.
Look at Your Child
This may seem obvious but you may be surprised at how often you throw out instructions to your child while they are turned away from you or while you are turned away from him. If you want your child to learn language and be a better communicator, you need to take time to slow down, look at your child when you speak, and when possible, get down to his level. This helps your child focus on you and your message. It assists in phasing out the distractions around him like toys, noise, and other children
Changing your facial expression sets an expectation for communication to occur. For example, think about how you communicate to your partner non-verbally about an important meeting that he/she has attended?
Keep Quiet and Wait
This may seem like a contradiction in terms when trying to stimulate language development, but children need time when they’re learning to process what they’ve heard and what they want to say back.
Sometimes we are so busy talking about the next thing on our ‘to-do’ list, that we don’t give the child time to respond. In today’s world, it seems we expect everything in a millisecond. We often don’t realize it but we are not allowing our children to take part in important learning experiences because we are too busy responding and doing for them, rather than waiting to see if they can do/see/say it without us.