Ideas for building children’s language
Scenario 3: Meal times
Some mealtimes can be a great way to promote one-on-one interaction with your child.
- As a child’s expressive language skills continue to develop, avoid only asking uestions that require a “yes” or “no” response. Ask questions that require a choice. Saying “Do you want banana?” requires only a yes or no indication. Instead, you can ask, “Do you want an apple or banana?” You can visually show the two options to help your child understand.
- Try not to put all a meal (particularly favourite snacks, etc.) in front of your child all at once. Keep a little in reserve. When they indicate they want more, model the request, e.g., “Can I have more apple please”, or integrate the sign/picture. Remember to use correct grammar, but add lots of emphasis to the key words (e.g. APPLE, MORE)
- If there are others at the table, meal times can simply be a great language modelling environment. Dinner table talk usually involves requests.
- Requests (i.e., “Can you pass the pepper?”, “Can you pour me a drink please?”)
- Directives (i.e., “Eat your broccoli please”)
- Questions (i.e., “What did you do at school today?“, “How was work?”).
While your child may not be directly engaged in all these interactions, the communication model is important.
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.
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 and make an appointment with our speech pathologists Eugene Pillay or Jenna Butterworth.