Suggestions to help parents to improve communication:
- comment on the child’s play or actions.
- use everyday situations as an opportunity to reinforce emerging language: use shopping, sorting the washing walking to school as opportunities to learn new words.
- allow the child to lead in safe situations within play and interaction
- add a new word or new idea. Ican, the charity that supports speech, language and communication skills in children, state that ideally the adult should aim to extend a child’s language by one word. If, for example a child tends to use one word on average in their utterances then the adult should aim to use a two word phrase in response. So if a child’s typical utterance would be ‘car’ then the adult may respond with ‘yes!’ ….‘big car!’
- the Hanen Centre (1995) recommends that parents and care-givers Observe, wait and listen. This helps the parent to learn more about how their child feels, learn about their child’s interests and learn about how their child is communicating before joining in.
- count slowly to 10 after asking the child a question to give the child time to respond
- be aware of pace and slow down adults’ rate of speech as appropriate
- reduce questioning, use comments
- get down to the child’s level in play and interaction in order to maximise opportunities to be face to face
- make sure that the child gets plenty of sleep. Sleep helps children transfer their learning to the long term memory. This is particularly important for language acquisition.
- infants (3-11 months) require between 14-15 hours in a 24 hour period
- toddlers (12-35 months) require between 12-14 hours
- pre-schoolers (3-6 years) 11-13 hours
- primary school (7-11 years) 10–11 hours
- have some regular quiet time to share books, action songs and nursery rhymes
ICan’s Talking Point website has further ideas for encouraging language development at 12-18 months, 18-24 months, 2-3 years.
Multilingual home environments
There can be additional issues for families to consider within multilingual home environments. See Top Tips for Growing up with more than one language for more information.
See the Talk to Your Baby website for advice sheets in a variety of languages about promoting early communication skills.