Every day parents and caregivers have many opportunities to encourage communication development in infants and toddlers.
Better language skills to improve toddler speech development are very important as they help children to be better communicators.
Better language skills to improve toddler speech development are very important as they help children to be better communicators, develop the skills necessary to build friendships, and further along, allows them to be better prepared for school.
Here are some suggestions and activities that parents and caregivers can use to encourage speech and language development in young children:
1. Imitate the sounds or words that your child makes. Encourage him to take turns making sounds with you. See if he will imitate the speech sounds you make, but use familiar sounds that you know he can make.
2. Label objects and actions during daily activities or play. Try to hold objects near your face and have your child look at you as you name the item. This will encourage attention and eye contact. Also, try to be at the same physical level as your child when you communicate with them. This could mean squatting to be at your child’s level or lying on your belly to play with him on the floor.
3. Follow your child’s lead. Talk about what your child is interested in or what he is looking at. He will be more likely to pay attention to what you are saying if it is about something he is interested in.
4. Speak in short, simple phrases. Try using just one or two word phrases when you communicate with your child. This can help children figure out what they should say, and sometimes it can help children better understand what you’re saying.
E.g., “Ball”, or “want ball”, or “ball in.”
5. Repeat and stress key words during communication. Your child may pick up on those words and imitate them. This can also help children to understand your main message.
6. Model an appropriate word when your child uses gestures and sounds to communicate. Instead of only responding to a child’s gestures, add a word so the child learns what he could say if he were to say something.
E.g. Child: “uh” (reaching for something)
Adult: “Yes, duck!” “Here’s duck.”
7. Interpret your child’s attempts to say words as though they are words. Make a big fuss to really encourage his attempts to speak even if you are not positive that the child is trying to say a word.
E.g., Child: “Da” (in bathtub)
Adult: “Yes, duck!” “Here is duck.”
8. Try not to anticipate all of your child’s wants and needs. Create opportunities and encourage him to initiate communication by waiting for him to let you know in some way what he wants. Try putting some of your child’s desired objects out of reach and see how he “asks” for them. Try not to respond too quickly, but give him a chance to communicate first.
9. Give your child choices about what he wants. Hold up two objects, say the names of both objects and offer your child a choice. Wait for him to reach and try to communicate a sound, then immediately give him the chosen object while saying its name.
See also our article on How to Improve Caregiver Communication.