How to support your child’s language development at home

Toddler girl in child occupational therapy session doing playful exercises on a digital tablet with her therapist.

You are your child’s greatest teacher. Particularly when it comes to things like language and communication.

If your child is experiencing developmental delays or disability, you play a vital role in helping them communicate. You might already work with a speech pathologist, but it’s good to know there are many simple ways you can encourage speech and language at home.

Here are our top tips to support speech and language development at home.

Read with your child

Start reading with your child when they are a baby. Picture books encourage kids to look while you name the pictures and are a great place to start. You can gradually extend your child’s vocabulary and choose more challenging books to read together. Encourage your child to engage with what you read by commenting on the story and pause for them to take their turn before the next page. Join your local library and look for age-appropriate books. Good language skills grow within routine and repetition. Reading the same books over and over might be boring for you, but this repetition is important.

Talk about everyday things – every day!

One of the best ways to build your child’s language is to talk your way through the day. Even if your child does not talk back to you, you can talk about the ordinary things you do each day while you do them. Name the foods at the grocery store, the clothes you help them dress in, and the plants, birds, and local landmarks you spot when out and about. Keep things simple but try to avoid baby talk.

Slow down

Use a slower speed when having a conversation with your child. You can do this by pausing at the end of your sentences to give them time to respond. When you ask a question, like “Do you want to wear your red t-shirt or your green one?”, pause and listen to their answers. They may not always find the right words, but they will be learning about conversation.

Pay attention

Get down to your child’s level and look at them when you talk or listen to them. Repeat what your child says to you and extend your child’s sentences to encourage conversation. If your child points and says “truck”, you could respond by saying, “Yes, it’s a big red truck (pause), Where do you think it’s going?” Not only does this show you’re interested in what they have to say, but it will help build their language and conversational skills.

Limit screen time

Try and place limits on screen time – this goes for you, too. Language develops through interaction and if either of you looks at a screen, you can’t look at each other. Put your phone away and switch off the TV to minimise distractions for better interaction and engagement.

Play together

Children learn best through play. Setting aside time to play with your child every day is one of the best ways to nurture their language development. Let your child take the lead and allow their interests to guide you. If they love balls, get outside and kick one around together. If cars are more their thing, make a racetrack around the house and see whose car is the fastest! Make up rhymes, tell stories, sing songs in the car – have fun together!

Use communication aids

Did you know you can model language visually as well as with speech? Visual supports can be a great way to help develop your child’s vocabulary, language and communications skills, even when speech is hard for them. You can use communication books, boards or key word signs for any and all the tips listed above. Scope has a range of communication aids and resources to support you and your child.

Stay positive and stay connected

Children thrive with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Speech, language and communication are complex skills that take time to nurture and grow. By celebrating your child’s successes together each day you will help build their confidence to keep trying. Family, friends, and other parents are great for support, as well as expanding your child’s communication. Staying connected will help your child have a variety of communication partners and provide support you to teach communication. 

To learn more about how Scope can help your child thrive, contact us today.