Ideas for building children’s language
Scenario 1: Play Time
When using these top tips for play time, it is important to remember to:
- Keep it positive. Avoid using ‘punitive tones’. Celebrate the successes rather than focusing on what a child may not have mastered yet. “Have-a-go” is a great attitude for both parents and children in the language learning process.
- Model appropriate language use so your child is aware of what they should try to do.
- Waiting is important, but if you just wait and don’t model, your child may lose interest or become frustrated because they are not sure what to do.
- Be dynamic and emphasize key words. Take time to celebrate every communication attempt (remember, communication is not just talking!). Language learning is a gradual process, not an overnight phenomenon.
Top ways to use play time to build a child’s language
- Store a selection of toys in clear boxes or buckets with lids. When playing together, put the box out so it can be seen, but do not open it until your child requests it to be open. Again, you should model gesture or speech to request: “Can you open the box? Do you want me to open the box?” Add emphasis to the key words (in this case, OPEN and BOX). If your child loves loving bubbles (or similar), you can get the container out, but wait before opening the lid. This gives your child the chance to communicate that they would like to start playing.
- Choose a toy that your child really loves and begin playing with it on your own. Pause and wait for your child to show/gesture that they would like a turn and then model the language they need to use. If it is a train, you could say “Can I have the train please?” or use the ‘train’ sign with words. If a child is using pictures to communicate, model exchanging the train picture for the actual train. As soon as your child communicates that they would like a turn, respond by giving the child a turn. Keep the interaction dynamic!
- Try not to put the parts or pieces of a toy out all at once. If a child has all the toys and parts they need, there may be less motivation to use language to communicate (i.e., no need to ask for more). If your child loves cars, pretend tea parties, play dough or building blocks, keep some pieces or parts with you. When your child realises they need more parts, model the language to use: “Can I have the car please?” Add emphasis to the key words (e.g. CAR).
- Every now and again, you can deliberately give a piece or part that does not fit (e.g. with a shape sorter toy). This so-called “loving sabotage” provides a great opportunity to promote language: “Uh-oh this one doesn’t fit. Let’s try another one”.
- Engage in any activity that your child enjoys songs and rhymes e.g. ‘This little piggy’, ‘This is the way the horsey rides’, ‘Down at the bottom of the deep blue sea’). Sing or say the song a few times and then wait. If your child does not immediately request more (but seems to want to keep going) model the language request: “Should we do it again? Ready, Set… (pause) Go!”
It is important to remember that these are general ideas only and cannot replace the direct input and specific therapy that can be provided by a speech pathologist. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, you should contact a speech pathologist for an appointment to get specific advice for your child.
For more information on this topic or any speech related fields, contact the ENT Clinic on 1300 123 368 to make an appointment with our speech pathologists Eugene Pillay or Jenna Butterworth.