Tips on Teaching Your Child to Speak and Develop Language Skills
Learning how to speak is an essential milestone for babies and toddlers. It’s also a task that parents and guardians should prepare for and take seriously from the birth of their child and beyond. Now, kids pick up language skills at their own pace. There’s always a chance that a child will learn to speak sooner or later than their siblings, cousins, or peers.
At the same time, though, it’s still important to keep a close track of their language skills. This is because delays in this area can indicate child development issues, and acknowledging and addressing these challenges as soon as possible can be key to changing a child’s developmental trajectory and improving the outcome for the child, their family, and their community as a whole.
How Can Parents Help Toddlers and Young Children Develop Language Skills?
Teaching your child how to communicate through words is a long-term task for many parents, and lessons should start upon the birth of your infant. While your child might not be able to use their words until after they turn 6 months old, for example, they are capable of understanding your words and connecting what you say to what you mean. Here’s how you can encourage your young babies and toddlers to develop their communication and language skills:
Talk to Your Baby Frequently
Talking to your baby frequently will not only strengthen your bond with each other, but the act will also help expose your child to new sounds and words and learn how they are configured in sentences. In addition, it will also help them become more familiar with the world around them. Tell your baby about their surroundings, discuss the details of the clothes they’re wearing, or narrate what you’re doing when you’re around them, for starters.
Name the Objects around You
You can help your child pick up new words by introducing them to the items around them and the things that they use regularly. Introduce them to the feeding bottle every time you feed them so that they can connect it to the feeling of being satiated, for example. You can also do this with people by calling your partner, family members, or friends the names that you want your child to eventually associate with them.
Read Books and Labels Together
Reading to your child is a good practice, and research shows that children whose parents read them books as infants have larger vocabularies compared to their peers. Early on, show your infant how reading can be a fun activity by highlighting the pictures and words in the books that you read together.
Encourage Them to Repeat Words
If your baby is trying to repeat the words that you’re saying, encourage them. If they try to repeat the names of the people they interact with or the items they typically use, such as milk or ball, for example, this means that they’re getting the concept that these things have names. Support their progress and praise them for their efforts.
Cultivate Their Interests
What catches your child’s attention lately? If they’re interested in animals, dinosaurs, or trucks, for instance, how about using these items to spark a conversation with them? If you want them to practice speaking, ask them to describe their favorite toy, say what it can and can’t do, and what it might do if it gets in a particular situation.
Introduce Expectant Pauses
A pause that’s meant to give your child time to respond to a question is called an expectant pause, and many children’s shows use it to keep their young viewers engaged with their program. Use expectant pauses in real life as well to further encourage your child to say their mind and be a part of the conversation.
Give Your Child Options
Another way to encourage your child to use their words is by giving them options. Perhaps you can ask them if they’d rather wear clothes of one colour or another after taking a bath, or you can also ask them if they feel like eating a cookie or a cupcake as dessert.
Speak Slowly but Avoid Baby Talk
Allow your child to grasp the proper use of words by avoiding baby talk. Your child will inevitably mispronounce words that are not familiar to them or those that they have yet to practice using in earnest. Leave the baby talk to them, but use and pronounce the words properly so your child can follow your example.
When to Seek the Help of a Child Development Specialist
It’s important to talk to your paediatrician if your child has not yet started to talk by the age of 2, if they have trouble following directions or putting simple sentences together, or if their vocabulary is far smaller than is expected from someone of their age. It’s also a good idea to regularly share updates on your child’s language milestones with their paediatrician. This way, the specialist can address any concerns and questions that you might have about your child’s development and direct you to people who can help you and your child navigate challenges in acquiring verbal skills.