By the time children are two years old, most will be using a range of words (e.g. naming words, action words, location words etc.) and starting to link these together to say short phrases, such as “car gone”, “teddy drink” or “where daddy?”
Below are some really simple communication supportive strategies to weave into your everyday interactions to build in opportunities for language learning.
If your child isn’t developing their skills as expected, why not check out our free Activities for Toddlers or for something more structured try a Booster Plans in our Therapy Centre.
Talk to your child while you are getting them dressed in the mornings. Use simple language to describe what you are doing, e.g. “socks on…. one…two!” Offer them a choice of what they want to wear whilst showing them the items (e.g. “trousers or shorts today?”, “pink or blue socks?”). Choice making and independence are important early skills for children to learn but by showing them the item at the same time as labelling it, this helps to strengthen word learning. If they only respond with a noise or point, that’s ok, repetition is key and the more you try this strategy, the more likely they are to have a go at saying the words when they’re ready.
Try to be at your child’s eye level when playing with them. This may mean sitting or lying on the floor to be face to face with them. Be a play partner rather than a teacher during these times and try not to lead or direct their play. During these times try to avoid questions, such as “what’s that?”, “where’s the car going?” or “what colour is it?”, whilst it’s perfectly natural to ask questions, it is more helpful for young children if you comment on what they are doing instead so they can learn the words and phrases that you are saying (e.g. “red car!”, “that’s a fast car”, “uh oh, the cars crashed”). Turn the TV and radio off whilst playing to help your child to focus all of their attention on you and playing. It’s also a good idea to silence mobile devices so you can give them your undivided attention. For more information on technology use with children listen to our podcast in our Learning Zone
Meal and snack times
Meal and snack times are often great opportunities for language modelling as most children are motivated by food. You can use the choices strategy as described in Getting dressed and also give drinks or snacks a little at a time to encourage your child to ask for ‘more’. You can model lots of different types of words during these times talking about how foods feel, taste or smell (“soft”, “sweet”, “crispy”, “cold”). Getting all the senses involved can really help to strengthen their learning.
Nappy changing and potty training
Sing songs and rhymes whilst you’re changing your child or give them books to look at whilst they’re learning to sit on the potty. Using specific praise can help children to understand the behaviour that is being rewarded (e.g. “well done for sitting on the potty”) so they are more likely to do more of the same.
Out and about
The great outdoors is full of language learning opportunities such as trips to the supermarket, playing in the park, walking to nursery. Why not get them to help you by giving them their own shopping list for your trip to the supermarket – you could draw a few pictures of some items on a piece of paper and give them a crayon for them to cross off once you’ve put it in the trolley, or see if they can remember to look out for one or two items. We have a shopping list template and pictures of shopping items in the Downloads section of our Therapy Centre
Sing songs about what you are doing (e.g. “this is the way we wash your toes, wash your toes….”) and play with your child and their bath toys. Most children love water play so make this into a fun activity rather than just a functional tasks. Bath time is an opportunity to offer different types of words as well such as action words (“splash”, “wash”, “dunk”, “dry” etc).
Every child benefits from having a bedtime routine, the earlier you start this the earlier they will get used to it. Try to avoid any exposure to technology within a few hours of bedtime to allow your baby’s brain to calm. TV, videos and mobile devices stimulate the brain and will make it harder for them to nod off to sleep (listen to our podcast on technology in our Learning Zone). A bedtime lullaby or a bed time story can help to soothe your little one as well as being an opportunity to help them to develop. Show them books and talk about the pictures you see, you don’t have to read them the whole story for them to benefit. Simply pointing things out and talking about the pictures is an opportunity for them to learn. When they are old enough they might want to have a go at turning the pages or joining in the story.
We love these videos by The Communication Trust which illustrate some of the points above:
Through the Eyes of a Child 1-2 years
Through the Eyes of a Child 2-3 years
Are you noticing your toddler is behind with their talking? Or just looking for some fun and practical games to play to make sure their skills continue to progress?
Why not explore our free Activities for Toddlers or for something more structured try a Booster Plans from our Therapy Centre.
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