So your little one has been babbling, starting to say a few words, maybe even imitating some words, but how can we really promote language in our little ones? There are so many resources out there and different ways to promote communication, I wanted to share with you the main ways I’ve seen to help promote language in children under three. Let me add before we go on, that children under three usually don’t have perfect articulation. A lot of the sounds such as ‘t’ ‘x’ ‘ch’ (to name a few..) don’t come until later. Right now you just want to help them focus on communicating and starting to vocalize their wants and needs.
Labeling children’s play
I discussed this in a post here on language development if you wanted to read more about it. But if you only do one thing, this is the one. Giving your children the words to say is so important. Linking words with actions is just as important. For example, when they want you to pick them up and they are raising their hands at you and grunting (which gets old after two minutes..) you can say “up” when you pick them up. This way they are linking that action with a word, over time they will learn to just say up when they want to be picked up.
Opportunities to talk (not doing everything for them)
This one is way harder than it sounds. If I were there in your living room, trying to figure out how to help you encourage language with your little one, I would ask ‘Do you make breakfast at the same time every morning? Or do you wait for your little one to ask for food?’ Routines are very important, and scheduling them is very important too. But sometimes waiting just a little bit can be great for language development. Children typically learn skills that are useful to them, so that they can get their wants and needs met. And if their wants and needs are always met (usually by a loving parent) they don’t have use for words. Giving them opportunities to ask for food, or make choices really can help facilitate words, especially for those little ones with a quiet demeanor.
Mirror play and Pointing to your Mouth
For the most part children figure out how to use their mouth and that your mouth makes words, but some children aren’t quite sure where sounds or words come from. One of the funnest activities to do with your little one is sit with them in front of a mirror (usually the bathroom mirror is great!), so both you and your little one can see yourselves. Then make very silly and exaggerated sounds. Encourage your little one to see that sounds come from your mouth, and that they can imitate you doing that. This activity is best for children 18 months or older, but all little ones should get some mirror play. Another helpful thing to do is position yourself so your little one can see sounds on your lips. You don’t have to always do this, but it can help with sounds. My favorite way to do this is sitting across from your little one when looking at books, this way they can see your mouth forming the word ‘apple’ ‘ball’ ‘dog’ etc.
Open Ended Questions
This one is pretty straight forward, asking your little one open ended questions encourages them to listen and to give a specific answer. If we are always asking ‘do you want more’ or ‘is this what you want’ especially when they are using gestures and grunting, we aren’t giving them opportunities to use words, we are just teaching them that yes and no are the best options.
Praise Praise Praise!
Last but not least, give lots of praise and encouragement! I once tried to learn Spanish (and learned a great deal), but I always felt so deflated when I was trying so hard and a native speaker would say ‘que dice’ or ‘what did you say?’ or even that they didn’t understand. I was way more likely to try harder and speak up when I was speaking with a native speaker who was encouraging and helpful. It’s the same for our kiddos. They are learning a whole new language, and sometimes it is tempting for us to say ‘I don’t know what you are saying…’ Instead it’s best to give praise for trying and label their speech for them. If they are jabbering about the cat, give them the words to say ‘Oh you like the cat?’ They will feel so excited that you understood them it will fuel their desire to communicate more.
Happy talking!! It is so fun to hear your little ones talking, and its even more fun when they are spontaneously talking. I want to hear how you have encouraged talking with your little one!! Comment Below.