Things you can do to support your child’s language development from birth
For infants (0-2 years)
Babies begin to learn language skills from the moment they are born. They first learn receptive language skills (understanding) and then later will use expressive language (speaking).
These are some ways you can facilitate receptive and expressive language development:
- When interacting with your baby, try to be ‘face-to-face’ and maintain eye contact. If your baby is playing on the floor, hop down and play on their level. Engage in what your child is interested in.
- Teach your baby to imitate you actions: clap your hands, throw kisses, play hand games like peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, ‘this little piggy’ and ‘intsy wincey spider’.
- Imitate your baby’s laughter, sounds and facial expressions.
- Use gestures (e.g. waving goodbye) to help convey meaning.
- Talk to your baby clearly and often. Talk about what you’re doing in daily routines: bathing, feeding, dressing, going out.
- Emphasis key single words – especially those commonly used in the baby’s environment (e.g. brush, drink, bath. Use a variety of words, not just nouns/names of things.
- Your baby’s response may not necessarily come in the form of words, but it’s still important to wait for them to respond. A response to your actions, words, singing or laughter may be a squeal, gesture, laugh or sound.
- Make sure you give your baby time to respond. Pause often.
- When your baby starts to use single words, expand on the word: “Where is baby? Here is baby!” Acknowledge your baby’s attempts to communicate.
- Read with your child. Reading creates an environment with stimulus for interaction. Even if you are not ‘reading words’, choose books with large, colourful, simple pictures. You can ask “What is this?” pause for response and then continue to commentate on the book: ‘There is a boy. He is running. There is his dog, the dog says “woof woof!’
- In the home or when you’re out and about, introduce animal sounds to encourage associating a sound with meaning, count items or name colours.
If you need speech therapy to help your child’s language development make an appointment to see our speech pathologists.
Paul, R. (2001). Language disorders from infancy through adolescence: Assessment and intervention (2nd ed.). Toronto, Canada: Mosby.
Rossetti, L.M. (2001). Communication intervention: Birth to three. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group.
Speech Pathology Australia. Helping your baby talk – Retrieved on 12/06/2013
Vigil, D.C., Hodges, J. & Klee, T. (2005). Quantity and quality of parental language input to late-talking toddlers during play. Child Language Teaching and Therapy 21(2), 107-122.