ACTIVITIES TO ENCOURAGE LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
Learning language is a natural process for children. We, as parents and as educators, stimulate language development in young children rather than directly teach it. Every day activities, such as dressing, eating, bathing, reading, and playing can be made into valuable language experiences. And the more language opportunities you give to your child, the greater his or her development.
Babies learn language by listening and by imitating, so keep talking to your baby – even if all of your words are not understood in the beginning. Keep your language simple and try to keep your language one step ahead of your child’s. If your child communicates with single words, turn the single words into short phrases. For example, when playing with a toy car, hold the car up and say, “Car”. Then as you push the car to your child, say, “Car go”. You might add, “Car go up” or “Car goes fast”. Repeating a word, such as “car”, along with using simple language structures, helps your child associate the words with the objects and actions. As your child gets older, expand his phrases to give him models of longer phrases with correct grammar. If he says, “Juice all gone”, you can say, “The juice is all gone”. If your child uses incorrect language forms, such as, “Him go to school”, model the correct form back to him, “He goes to school”, in a natural manner. This is much more effective than directly telling your child that he said it wrong.
Children try to use lots of words and sometimes they are not always easy to understand. Correcting the child's speech is not as important as listening, accepting the child’s effort, exchanging ideas, and correctly modeling the mispronounced sound. Hearing the difference must happen before the child can use the correct sound spontaneously. When the child is developmentally ready, he/she will use the sound correctly without being drilled.
An example of a helpful interaction:
Child: My tat (cat).
Parent: Yes, your cat has white feet.
Child: And a taio (tail).
Parent: Yes, she has a tail.
An interaction that is not helpful:
Child: My tat (cat).
Parent: Yes, but say k-k-k-cat.
Child: Tat (cat).
If you do not understand your child's speech, bend down to the child’s level and make eye contact. Ask the child to tell you again so you can listen. Be where the child wants you; for example, he may gesture for you to come with him. If you still do not understand, ask the child to show you. With that, and with the cues available in the situation, the needs or wants of the child can usually be understood. Say again, in simple sentences, what it is the child is asking for. Do not ask the child to repeat you. Then make an appropriate comment to show the child that you want to continue the conversation. This provides a clear message that you really want to listen and talk with him.
Some additional things you can do for your child's development include:
www.asha.org/public/speech/development/schools_faq.htm answers many questions
parents may have about their child's development.