Language is one of the few skills we use all day, every day. Having a child with emerging language skills can be exciting as they acquire new skills, but also worrying. Below are 5 strategies for parents of late talkers to continue language acquisition outside of the therapy room.
Devote intentional time to promoting language.
Growth does not just happen in the therapy room; learning opportunities happen daily! As a parent or caregiver, you have the ability to capitalize on these learning opportunities throughout the day while with your child. Research shows typically developing language learners spend 20-25 hours a week actively listening and engaging. While you don’t have to meet an exact time stamp when working with your child for them to make progress, carved out intentional time spent increasing language input is key for success. A great time to work on these emerging language skills can be during everyday routines such as bath time, reading a book before bed, or brushing teeth.
Simplify what your toddler hears.
Use single key words often, and put them at the end of phrases. Using key words, and repeating them frequently is important to help children link meaning to words. Create simple jobs for your toddler during everyday routines to increase use of important words in your life. An example is after your toddler eats a snack, have him/her throw away the trash after you say “clean-up.” By giving your child a part in daily routines, you will not only increase understanding (receptive language), but also set the stage for increased talking (expressive language).
Respond to and repeat non-words (babbling, grunting, any noises) your child says. It is thought that all words start as non-words. By imitating non-words, you then have the opportunity to start shaping them into real words through modeling. Modeling is the act of providing an example of the targeted, or expected action. For example, if your child says, “Uh” while reaching for a cup you could model, “Cup. You want cup.”
More noises, less words.
Before a child can talk, they have to have the ability to make noises and sounds. This lays the foundation for sound production, and turn-taking in conversation. Sound effects (vroom, beep beep, whoosh), exclamatory words (wow! uh oh! wee!), and animal sounds (moo, quack, baa) are excellent sounds to target during play.
Create verbal routines.
A verbal routine is a word, or short phrase that is repeated often; creating predictability for your child. During daily routine and play, choose a few verbal routines and say them frequently. This will allow your child to become familiar with them and expect what comes next. As familiarity increases, put a pause in before the word you want your child to say and allow them time to finish the phrase and participate in the routine. A verbal routine often used is, “ready, set, go.”
For more strategies specific to your child, contact your therapist for help!