It is such an exciting time when your infant begins to learn to talk. It all begins with unrecognisable sounds and you’re quickly jumping up and down certain you heard the word Mum or Dad come out of your baby’s mouth. As children grow past this stage often parents start to worry about how their child is comparing to other children in their language development.
Without encouragement children’s language development can be delayed leading to other difficulties in expressing themselves and interacting with the world around them. Encouragement and support from parents and carers can help your child toward developing and improving their language skills.
From a very early age infants can recognise and are comforted by their parent’s voices. Infants develop at different rates. Children can vary greatly in when they acquire new skills and abilities. However talking promotes thinking and language development, so children who hear a lot of sounds and words as they grow, develop stronger vocabularies. If you are concerned about your child’s language development do not hesitate to discuss this with your child’s health nurse.
Some helpful places to start:
- Model Good Listening -Give strong eye contact, and respond.
- Speak slowly – This will help your child to understand what you say.
- Give the child time to respond – Allow your child time to respond to your cues . Conversation is about turn taking. It requires people to pause, listen and respond.
- Use short sentences
- When you can speak at your child’s level -This helps gain their attention and also helps you child to hear.
- Reduce background noise -If you talk in a noisy environment (when the TV is on, or in the car), your speech may sound muffled
- Take Turns -Taking turns is the first step to conversation. If you stop and listen to your baby/young child he/ she will listen to you.
- Turn Taking games – These games are fun for toddlers and also help them to learn about sharing. For example Peek a boo games.
- Use daily routines to repeatedly name things – For example at bath time you can name “Duck” or “Bubbles”
- Offer your child choices – You might ask your child if they want an “Apple or Juice”, while showing them. This helps your child to learn and name things in his/her own world.
- Have realistic expectations, don’t expect perfect speech all the time -If your child says “a” and points to an apple, you could say,” yes,…apple”. Letting your child know you understand, then giving him/her the correct word. This will encourage him/her to talk and help them feel good about their attempts to communicate Be aware talking begins with sounds and gestures.
- Share books -help your child to become familiar with books. Allow them to turn pages, lift the flaps of books and feel textures. Talk about the pictures. Point and name pictures. Read aloud. Share favourite stories and rhymes again and again. Repetition helps children to understand and remember language they hear.
It is all a process and by helping your child to tackle these challenges with encouragement, support, gentleness and affection they will develop. If you have any concerns about your child’s language development, your GP or Early Childhood Nurse can help.