Many parents phone asking about their toddlers’ speech and language, and whether their language development is age appropriate. Spending just 20 minutes a day 1:1 with your child in play can have a dramatic effect on your child’s language.

6 tips in how a parent can develop their young child’s Language.

1. Follow your child’s lead in play: if they are interested, then they will be more engaged and more willing to participate in the game. Use words associated with what they are playing with.

2. Joint attention: this follows on from following your child’s lead. Both of you are focussed on the one object. For example:
– playdough: have rolling pins, cutters etc and then join in by copying her / his movements and add language.
– cause and effect toys: Jack-in-the -box, toys that pop open, hammering toys, peek-a-boo.

3. Requesting: when your child wants a specific object (e.g. toy or drink), their ability to request will be different according to their age.
– 6 months to one year: pointing may be acceptable, however modelling the words associated with the request begins at a young age.
– 1 year: it would be expected that your child would attempt words associated with the request. For example, if your child wants a drink then an attempt at the word such as ‘dwin’ or ‘dink’ would be acceptable.
– 2 years: your child should be attempting to put two words together. E.g. “dwink please”.
– 3 years: Your child should be speaking in short sentences. E.g. “Drink please mummy”.

Always second guessing what your child wants without any expectation of them attempting to verbally communicate will lead your child to having temper tantrums every time they want something and may have a harmful impact on their overall language development.

4. Turn Taking: is an important part of communicating. This can be a difficult skill for young children to learn. Great activities for turn taking are:
– Bubble blowing
– Building towers
– Placing shapes on a ring or shape box.
Language associated with this activity is “Mummy’s turn” & “Your turn now”.
Keep the turns short otherwise they will become frustrated due to their short attention spans.

5. Nouns: labelling objects: around the house or during play with your toddler is essential. Children have to hear words associated with objects.
– Bath time: label your child’s body parts as they are washed. When drying your child, ask them to give you their arm, leg etc to be dried.
– Bed time: labelling animals etc in their story books, and making the associated noise.
– Play time: labelling objects as they are played. For example, when you are both pretending to cook use words such as ‘cup’, ‘plate’, ‘carrots’ etc.

6. Verbs (action words): when playing ball use simple language; ‘kick’, ‘ready steady go’, ‘roll’, ‘stop’, ‘bounce’, ‘drop’.
The most important gift you can give your child is language and vocabulary. Your child needs to hear the same words over and over again before the words will be stored in their long-term memory. When children are engaged in an activity and are having fun it is then that they will be more likely to respond and have a go at attempting to speak words. It is important not to give in to every demand, but it is also important not to frustrate your child.