It’s important to take a proactive role in your child’s speech development. Here are some of our recommended best practices and strategies to improve receptive and expressive language skills.
Praise all of the child’s verbal attempts.
Keep your utterances simple and to the point.
Expand on the vocalizations that the child produces. i.e. ‘banana’; ‘more banana’
Keep items in a bag during play time so the child has to request ‘o’—‘open’.
Consistently sing songs to promote vocabulary and familiarity.
Read favorite stories over and over to allow the child to hear the same repetitive sequence.
Create new experiences for the child. Allow him to play in the sand. Repeat the theme words i.e. ‘sand’, ‘bucket’, ‘shovel’ in their appropriate context.
Create absurdities. Allow the child to correct you when you call the ‘cat’ a ‘dog’. Put a sock on your head and ask ‘Do you like my new hat?’ (Later Skill)
Play interactive games that your child enjoys. Stop, look at your child and wait for a response.
Give the child a favorite snack, one small piece at a time. Pause and wait for your child to ask for more.
Withhold desired objects throughout the day or place them out of reach. Encourage the child to respond by using models, delayed models and partial cues. Verbally praise appropriate responses, re-enforce the use of recurrence by giving him the desired items.
Point at various objects throughout your child’s day to day activities and label them.
When bathing, point to your his head, nose, legs, belly, eyes, etc, and label them. Take your child’s index finger and point to the various body parts, as you guide his hand. Do the same with dressing as you point to the various pieces of clothing.
Take walks with your child and point to things (near and far) that you see and hear. Then label them. You can use describing words and compare objects you see.
Give your child choices by presenting two objects, (one more desirable than the other) then ask, “Do you want _________ or ________?”
Don’t anticipate your child’s every need. Don’t be so quick to refill an empty juice cup. Let your child make some attempt to tell you first.
By narrating your child’s activities, you are helping him put words to objects and actions. For example, describe your child’s activities: “Junior is climbing up on chair. Uh oh, fell down! Getting up”. etc. Narrate your actions too! “Mommy is doing laundry” etc.
Even if your child does not yet verbalize responses, pose open questions and then you go on to answer the questions out loud to model an appropriate response.
Acknowledge mispronounced words without punishing, but be sure to positively model: If your child says “Bup” for cup, do not reply, “No, it’s cup,” rather, simply say “Yes, cup.”
Play turn-taking games. Say to your child, “My turn,” “Your turn,” “His turn,” “Her turn,” Then ask him, “Whose turn is it?”
Present your child with a favorite snack and say, “Who wants one?” Model responses such as “Me!” or “I do!”, “He does!” or “She does!”
Encourage your child to engage in pretend play.
Organize your child’s toys into categories by placing them in different bins (e.g., cars with cars, blocks with blocks). Have him help put away the toys in their appropriate bin. Read books to your child on animals, transportation, foods, etc.
Present your child with directions that involve location (e.g., put the ball in the box, put the block under the chair, put the ball next to the chair). Help him place the objects in the correct location. Then ask, “Where is the block?”
Hide objects around the room and give directions including location so that the child can find the items.
Elicit the use of past tense by asking your child about a recent experience (e.g., after going to the park ask, “Where did you go today?” or “What did you do at the park?”).
Expand your child’s sentences by adding “because.” For example, if your child says, “I want to eat,” you say, “You want to eat because you are hungry.”
When your child begins to ask “Why” questions, respond to them by using short simple sentences.
Ask your child “why” questions after reading a book or following an activity. If your child does not respond, give choices (e.g., “Why do you wear a jacket? Is it because it’s cold or because it’s hot?”).
Use a mirror! A mirror is a great tool to encourage modelling. This can help with oral motor activities too.