Children & Language Development

Something a bit different on the blog this week, as we welcome our first guest post from children’s author and speech therapist Priya Desai.  We’re delighted to feature Priya on the blog this week and we love this informative and useful post about child language development and how you can help them at home.  Take a read of Priya’s top 10 tips for creating a supportive environment for your child to help with their language development.

Before a child starts nursery or school, their main learning environment is their home environment; it’s where they learn to sit, walk, behave, play and of course, talk. Here are some quick tips on talking at home that will help optimise your child’s language learning environment, and therefore support him/her in making progress with their language development; in addition to making language and communication more meaningful and enjoyable for all.

Repeat back and extend what your child says through the day. This will allow your child to hear their words again, and hence reinforce what they have said – you will also be modelling how to extend their sentence e.g.

Child: Car.

Adult: Red car.                                     or

 Car: Doggy running.

Adult: Yes, black doggy running.

Priya Desai Speech Therapist

You can also use a similar strategy when your child makes a mistake with a sound, word or with grammar.

Child: That’s a bid dog.

Adult: Yes, that’s a big dog! (Emphasize the /g/ and ensure your child sees your face.) 

Child: She teached me to put my shoes on.

Adult: She taught you to put your shoes on. (Emphasize the taught.)

Match your language to your child’s language level – if your child is using one word, as much as possible use 1-2 words at a time; this will allow your child to hear the necessary words that will further help him/her to develop language. Even for children aged between 3-4 years of age, it is useful to keep your sentences short and informative or to chunk information; in this way, they will hear all the key vocabulary (this will also help them process information and develop their memory skills). For example,

Sentence Reduction: ‘How about we go and look for something to play with.’ –> ‘Let’s get some fun toys!’

Chunking Information: ‘How about we go and look for something to play with, and then we can play upstairs for ages.’ -> ‘Let’s get some toys. Go to your bedroom. And play for a long time!’

Avoid asking too many questions. Questions can place pressure on a child to communicate, and therefore in some situations, less reluctant to talk. Language learning is dependent on practise and consistency, hence why it is necessary to eliminate situations that may create an additional pressure to communicate.

For a toddler whose understanding skills are developing, questions can be difficult to understand. Here is something to think about; ‘who is this?’ is easier to understand than asking, ‘what are you doing?’ Also bear in mind, that not all children are necessarily chatty; personality plays an important part in communication.

Comment throughout the day on what your child is doing or what you see in your environment, so he/she hears the necessary vocabulary at the right time. Comments can also be a good alternative to asking questions. For example, instead of asking, ‘what are you doing?’ make a small comment e.g.  ‘pushing train’, ‘dressing dolly….putting shoes on’ or ‘your painting is so colourful!’.

Don’t feel the need to fill in silences during play. Silences may encourage your child to communicate independently, therefore giving them further opportunities to practise talking.

When communicating, as much as possible get down to your child’s level so they see how you are producing sounds. This will also reinforce their listening skills and the need to look at someone when communicating.

Speak slowly; speaking slowly will teach your child to speak slowly – this is important when a child is acquiring language as they need more time to organise their thoughts and think of the correct vocabulary. Also, if children develop a pattern of speaking fast from an early age, this can affect their over clarity and intelligibility to others.

When communicating, keep environmental distractions to a minimum. For example, when playing games, make sure the TV or music is not on. A quiet environment will make it easier to hear sounds and words, and therefore pick up language.

Use lots of gesture when communicating. Gesture makes language more interesting and playful; and also helps children learn new words. You can use gesture to show and describe so many words, such as verbs (running, reading, sleeping etc.) and concepts (top, bottom, in, side, under, over, on etc.)

Praise your child all the time for their talking. For a younger child this can be a big smile, cuddle and repetition of the word they have said. For an older child, aged 3-4, you can be more specific e.g. ‘nice talking’, ‘wow, I loved all your words!’

Enjoy talking, chatting and communicating!

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About Priya Desai

priya-desai-childrens-authorSpeech & Language Therapist, Children’s Author

Priya is the author of Benjamin Writer-Messy, a story about a boy with terrible handwriting and Jake Monkey-Tail, a story about a monkey who cannot spell!

Both books are available at www.amazon.co.uk and are suitable for children aged between 4-8. For more information on Priya’s work please visit her website www.priyadesai.co.uk. You can also follow Priya on Twitter @priyaauthor.

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