If you’re the parent of a child with speech delays, it’s essential to understand that there are many things you can do to promote language development.
With 5 simple strategies, we’ll show you how!
Model words throughout your child’s daily routines
A tremendous amount of learning can occur when a child is actively involved in daily activities (mealtime, doing laundry, riding in the car, etc.). In addition, these daily routines provide consistent opportunities for children to improve their language development.
Children need to hear speech to learn and imitate it. Here are some strategies you can use during these routine activities:
- Label what you are doing;
- Name objects around the house;
- Call out colors;
- Describe actions you are doing;
- Say hello to friends and family. This will give your child a chance to practice familiar words, as well as learn new words.
You can model names of foods or colors of food on the plate or table during meals while eating. Say “this is spaghetti” when pointing to it on the plate, point to the bread and say “this is bread,” or point to a plate of food and say “This is corn.”
During bedtime routines, such as washing hands and brushing teeth, model what you are doing while performing these tasks yourself. Say, “I am pouring water into my hand,” or “I am putting toothpaste on my toothbrush.”
Describe what you are doing while folding laundry, writing checks, or driving in the car. Label colors or objects that you see during your daily routine. Point out people you know when driving to school or work. Use different tones of voice for various things and people you point out.
Model simple sentences when on the phone or talking to friends and family members. Spend time reading books together during daily routines (while eating, driving in the car, etc.). You can also make up stories about picture cards that you place throughout your house.
When at a store, read signs out loud and point out colors of clothing or food items. Point out different foods and pretend to taste them. Then, ask your child what they would like for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time.
Enroll your child in an early intervention program through your local school district so that a speech-language pathologist can work with you one-on-one.
Expanding Your Childs Vocabulary
For parents of children with speech delays looking for strategies to promote language development, here are some things you can do to work on their vocabulary:
Expand on the words your child uses. For example, if your child says “Eat banana,” you can expand the message to “You eat the banana.” You are not adding any new information but expanding the child’s original message to make it a complete sentence.
Find ways to get your child talking about what they are interested in. If they love animals, ask them questions like “What color is my elephant?” or “How many legs does my cow have?” These questions will encourage them to speak more because they want answers and feel successful when they answer correctly.
Try to be descriptive when you talk. For example, instead of saying, “It’s raining,” try saying, “The dark gray clouds are coming in, and it’s really windy outside. I hear the raindrops beating against the window.”
Practice Turn-taking with your child
Kids with speech delays often have trouble taking turns. It’s a skill that can develop before the use of words. You can encourage turn-taking throughout various activities (examples: rolling/kicking a ball, playing a musical instrument, turning pages in a book, etc.).
Language is made up of back and forth exchanges between people. So to encourage turn-taking, use words like “my turn” and “your turn.” Keep turns short as a way to sustain attention.
Below are ways you can help your child take more turns during playtime.
Play Games. Don’t just play games that you like. Instead, try playing new games with your child that encourage turn-taking. Here are some examples: Charades, Freeze Dance, Simon Says, Duck-Duck-Goose, etc.
Serve as a Model. Your child watches you to learn what’s acceptable in our society and how to communicate with others. When playing alongside your child, try to take turns when playing different roles or positions of a game (ex.: If you’re both sitting in chairs, it’s your turn, then your child’s turn, etc.). This is important when playing board games with your child.
Don’t Interrupt. Kids with language delays are often so excited to have the floor that they don’t hear what others say. For this reason, it’s best not to interrupt them if they are speaking so you can help them remain focused on an activity.
Ask Your Child to Help You. Teaching your child how you’d like them to take turns with others encourages turn-taking when playing with friends or siblings. For example, if they are helping put away toys, say, “Can you put the cars away now?” Once they have finished, then it’s ok to ask another child to help.
Plan Ahead. If your child is going to a birthday party, keep the number of kids at each turn-taking activity in mind when planning ahead. Limit the amount of activities with too many people, so one child doesn’t become overwhelmed and interrupt others.
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher. It’s important to let your child’s teacher know if they are having trouble taking turns so you can work together to help them improve. If the teacher is aware of your concerns, they can encourage turn-taking during center time or while working in groups.
Discuss “Taking Turns” With Your Child. Kids with language delays often need extra support to improve their turn-taking skills. If a child has trouble taking turns, it’s important that you talk to them about how they can do this during an activity. Talk about the different ways that kids take turns and practice by playing games together.
If your child struggles to take turns during playtime, then use these tips to encourage turn-taking. These strategies will help you and your child work together to reach their full potential.
Allow adequate wait time for your child to respond to questions
As adults, we want to fill in every moment of silence. However, for children learning to speak, pausing to give them a chance to understand the message and/or respond is essential.
Purposefully allow a wait time of 8-10 seconds (I even recommend counting in your head) to ensure you are providing your child with the time they need.
Here are some other strategies you can try:
- Create clear messages that can be understood by young children
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Provide opportunities for practice at home
- Use gestures when possible as this helps support speech comprehension skills
Don’t Forget to PLAY!
It’s important to remember that play is an integral part of the language development process. It allows children to explore, learn and develop their communication, motor, social and cognitive skills.
Play should be flexible – get on the floor with your child and let them lead you through activities they find engaging!
Remember: have fun!
To encourage language development, use toys that promote verbal interaction (i.e., talking).
Or, turn it into a game by creating rules around what the toy can do (i.e., “I’m not allowed to touch this toy yet!”).
Try playing at different times of the day so your child doesn’t feel like they’re always waiting for you to be available before playing together.
Create opportunities for conversation outside of play. This includes having conversations about what your child is interested in, asking open-ended questions, and repeating their words back to them. Repetition is key!
Singing songs that have many different lyrics can help children learn new words.
When practicing speech sounds at home, try motivating your child by turning it into a game or setting up a system where they “earn” more chances at making the sound. You can also use play to explore their sounds, allowing them to manipulate objects that don’t make noise while saying the syllable or word.
Make playtime less structured by giving your child opportunities to do what they want without direction but being ready to provide prompts when needed. This will help them develop their own play ideas.
If your child is having trouble with a specific type of play (i.e., imaginative play), consider role-playing with them to practice the kinds of things they’re interested in (i.e., mommy is putting baby in the highchair while daddy helps).
Another important factor in play is to provide scaffolding for your child by giving them some help when necessary. This means teaching and guiding them on how to use toys or props to eventually learn on their own.
If all this sounds intimidating and you want help enacting these principles, let us know! Our team of experts at Crawl Walk Jump Run in Clinton Township, are ready and waiting to partner with you to create an individualized plan for promoting your child’s communication success through play!
We’ll work closely with you and your family to explore the factors that may be impacting your child’s speech development, including their hearing, oral motor abilities, language development skills, social-emotional status, or other developmental delays.
Remember: Have fun!