Ways to Increase Your Child’s Verbal Skills
Language development is pretty amazing. While there is a large variance among children regarding when they develop language skills, its acquisition generally follows a predictable sequence. Whether a child with typical language development is 12 months old and beginning to form words or is demonstrating delays as a 3 year-old who is not yet pointing, it is important to foster, elicit and observe the early communication skills that precede speech.
The following tips, techniques and strategies are recommended to improve your child’s desire and ability to communicate in an effective manner so that purposeful speech may develop:
Use pointing and eye contact to increase joint attention (the shared focus of two people on an object/event/person).
- Model and encourage the imitation of pointing to bring awareness to an things/people in your environment. This is a crucial early communication skill!
Encourage your child to imitate non-verbal actions.
- Start with whole body actions (i.e., clapping, lifting arms up).
- Work up to more complex actions, such as imitation of sounds, consonant-vowel combinations (i.e., ba), animal sounds (i.e., quack quack), fine motor movements and facial expressions.
Imitate your child.
- Imitate your child’s vocalizations while trying to obtain their eye contact.
- Ideally, your child will echo the vocalization and wait for your imitation again; these are the building blocks to conversational turn-taking.
Use open-ended statements for familiar lines and songs and wait expectantly to see if your child attempts to participate.
- Your child’s participation may include body movement, vocalizations or verbal approximations of the missing word/phrase.
- Examples include:
- “Twinkle twinkle little….”
- “The doors on the bus go open and…”
Use consistent/repetitive phrases that are familiar to your child each time you participate in an action or routine.
- Sing a “clean up” song when picking up toys/objects.
- Always recite “up, up up!” when walking up stairs.
Simplify your language.
- For instance, instead of saying, “Pick up your toys because we’re late and it’s time to go,” say “Clean up toys. Time for bye-bye.”
Use picture cues and visual schedules at home to improve comprehension and to make transitions easier.
- Take pictures of actual objects and rooms in your home, frequent places you visit and familiar people in your child’s typical routine.
- Show your child these pictures prior to transitioning and verbally tell them what you’ll be doing/where you’ll be going – eventually transition to using these pictures in a visual schedule, showing what will happen in sequence throughout your child’s day.
Work on basic turn-taking and requesting.
- Help child to say “My turn” and “Your turn” via sign and/or picture cues while modeling the verbal phrase.
- Increase the time that the adult has the item to encourage child to independently communicate, “My turn.”
Manipulate environments and situations to increase communication opportunities.
- Keep preferred toys and objects out-of-reach and/or in clear bins that the child is unable to open themselves and prompt them to request items in the communicative manner that they are able to do so.
- Occasionally hand your child the wrong item and wait for them to get your attention to let you know you made a mistake. This may initially increase your child’s frustration, but eventually, your child will realize that they have the ability to repair communication breakdowns.
Increasing opportunities for your child to communicate with you and with others in an effective manner often increases their desire to communicate, once they realize that these exchanges usually improve their chances of getting what they want and desire. Whether it’s a cookie in an out-of-reach cookie jar or a deep pressure hug when they’re feeling overwhelmed, a child who can tell you in their own way what they want is generally happier, calmer and motivated to further improve their ability to be understood.
Communication Fun in the Fall!
Fall is just around the corner and nature is already giving us sneak peeks into the most colorful season of the year! Take advantage of the new-season vibes to further increase your child’s perspective and motivation and consider the following language-enhancing fall activities:
- Visit a pumpkin patch and encourage pointing to all different kinds of pumpkins based on features (i.e., white pumpkins, large pumpkins, bumpy gourds).
- Rent several fall-themed books from the library and read them aloud to your child, leaving off words once your child is familiar with them and seeing if they attempt to participate. Books with simple, repetitive lines work great (think Eric Carle books)! Suggestions include:
- The Very Busy Spider
- There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves!
- Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin
- Create turn-taking opportunities for various fall activities. Model “my turn” and “your turn” and encourage your child to initiate these signs/statements when gathering leaves, picking apples, making caramel covered apples, etc.
- Make up your own fall-themed lyrics for simple, familiar tunes or search for some on the internet. This helps with vocabulary expansion while taking pressure off your child of learning a new tune.
- e., (To the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)… I see leaves in my yard, Yellow, orange, red and brown Falling from the trees above, Fall is so much fun!
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