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Supporting Your Child’s Language Development – Top Tips!

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  • Follow your child’s lead. Let your child choose what to play with and watch how they play with the toys. Avoid trying to get your child to change their focus of interest to something you want to do. E.g. if your child is playing with bricks avoid comments like “look…mummy’s found a dolly” or “come and try this puzzle”….If your child is allowed to follow their own interests, they are more likely to listen to what you say, developing their language and attention.  Join in with your child by copying them or waiting for them to indicate what they’d like you to do. For example, if your child chooses to put a dolly to bed, you might put a teddy to bed. If your child play is rather repetitive, try expanding their play by modelling a slightly different way of playing with the toys. For example, if your child puts a dolly to bed, you could sing the dolly a lullaby.
  • Before talking to your child, try to get down to their level and call their name to gain their attention.Supporting your Child's Language development - Top tips
  • Avoid asking your child lots of questions (e.g. “where’s the train?”….”what’s that?”) rather name things for them (e.g. “it’s a train”…”look dog….woof-woof…dog!”).
  • Comment on what you and your child are doing during their daily routines and play. Talk about things as you are doing them, in the “here and now”.
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself again and again when commenting on what your child is doing.
  • Use pointing, gestures, photos, pictures and objects to help your child understand what you are saying. (E.g. if you are talking about a “caterpillar” in a story, point to the appropriate picture in the book, or try showing them a toy caterpillar.
  • Use short sentences and simple language. (E.g. Instead of “Can you put your coat and shoes on?… we need to pick your sister up and we’re going to miss the bus”….you might say “shoes on….coat on”).
  • Share books with your child. Talk about what is happening in the pictures. Encourage them to turn the pages and point to pictures.
  • Enjoy playing interactive games (e.g. Round and Round the Garden, Row Row the Boat) and sing action songs/ nursery rhymes with your child (e.g. Incy Wincy spider; Twinkle Twinkle little star). Encourage your child to copy the gestures/actions in these rhymes.
  • Model symbolic noises during play and daily routines (e.g. vehicle noises, animal noises, ”yum-yum”, “mmmm”, “splish-splash” etc).
  • Offer your child choices of food, drinks, toys, clothes, books, DVD’s etc. Hold up two objects for your child to see (e.g. yoghurt or banana) and name them. Wait for your child to look, reach, point, gesture or vocalize to tell you what they want. When they have made their choice, hand over the item immediately. If you feel your child has chosen “the wrong thing”, continue to hand over the item they indicated so they learn how to indicate a preference.
  • Repeat and expand on your child’s utterances. For example, if they say “biscuit” you might repeat back to them “eating biscuit” or “you want biscuit”.
  • Put language to what your child tries to communicate to you non-verbally. For example, if they take you to the fridge or point to an apple, you might say “you’re hungry….you want an apple”).
  • If you child mispronounces words or uses incorrect grammar, avoid trying to get your child to repeat back words/phrases correctly as they may not have the skills to do this yet and it is likely to just make them frustrated! Instead, simply model back the correct word/phrase so your child hears a good model. For example, if you child says “look mummy… tat!”, you might respond “yes… it’s a cat”.