With summer finally here, some of us have the chance to spend a little more time with our kids than we do during the school year. A few ideas for encouraging speech and language development during the time we have with them:
- Engage in self talk. Describing what you’re doing while you play with your child offers a wonderful model for them to follow. If you’re playing in the sand, use simple and enthusiastic language to talk about what your doing (e.g., “I’m scooping sand in the bucket! One scoop, two scoops…”).
- Engage in parallel talk. This is similar to self talk but instead you describe what your child is doing (“You’re scooping sand in the bucket! Wow, that’s lots of sand!”). This not only provides a rich language example but also allows for a shared focus of attention, meaning that you’re focused on the same thing that your child is.
- Use linguistic mapping. This is a fancy term for what’s more commonly called “putting words in someone else’s mouth”. If your child expresses a nonverbal intention (i.e., holding up a toy), model simple language to describe the intention (“It’s Elmo! I”m so glad you showed me!”).
- Expand on what your child says. You can help in developing your child’s language by adding grammatical markers and semantic information to the things they say. For example, if your child points to a chair and says “Daddy chair”, you can expand on this by saying “Yes, Daddy is sitting in the chair!”
- Extend your child’s utterances. This is like expanding except you push what your child has said just a little bit further by adding some new information. So again, if your child says “Daddy chair,” you can extend it by saying “Daddy just sat down! He’s feeling a little tired. “
- Limit the questions you ask your child and focus more on providing an example. Get down on their level, model simple language, and slow down. All these things help to keep pressure and demands low, providing an environment that encourages spontaneous imitation and production.
- Always acknowledge communication attempts! Any communication is good! We want to encourage our children to be competent communicators and one way of doing this is to recognize when they make the effort. Obviously this is not always possible but the more often we can do it, the better. *It’s important to note here that acknowledging does not always equal them getting what they want! If they do a superb job asking for a cookie but you already told them ‘no’, tell them you understand and that it must be disappointing to not get something they want. Give them feedback on how well you understood what they wanted!