Hearing your child’s first word is a milestone every parent looks forward to. As a parent and Speech and Language Therapist I’m often asked about some of the best ways to encourage speech and language development around the time a child begins to learn their first words. Here I’ve put together some of my top tips to help get your little ones on their way to successful communication.
- Songs and nursery rhymes are a great way for your child to learn language. Children learn language through repetition and will love singing nursery rhymes over and over again. Pause every so often and let your child fill in a word!
- Come down to your child’s level. Being at your child’s level allows you both to see and hear each other’s message better. Your child will see how your mouth forms the words and any facial expressions you use.
- Comment on things in the environment. If your child shows an interest in something, or is doing an activity they really like, give them the language for it. Children need to pair language with the real experience. You can also comment on your own actions e.g. ‘Mummy is washing the dishes’.
- Slow down your speech and highlight key words.
- Use a variety of words during everyday activities, e.g. common objects, action words, social words, and familiar names.
- Your child needs to hear a new word many times before they will understand it. Increase their understanding by showing them the real object or a photograph of the item.
- Read books with your child. Books are an excellent way of increasing your child’s vocabulary, developing their turn-taking skills and getting them to listen and attend.
- Acknowledge all attempts at communication. This could be any gesture, sound or word your child attempts. When your child feels like they have succeeded, they’ll be encouraged to give you more!
- Try not to test your child by asking too many questions such as ‘What’s this?’ Instead, point things out and label what you both see.
- Remember that every activity is a language learning activity and you don’t have to set aside times in the day to learn language. Model words for your child during bath-time or on your trip to the shop!