- READ, READ, READ
I'm not just talking about books either, we'll discuss reading books to your children in a second.
Read the back of the cereal box, people's shirts, and signs on the street.
The more exposure your child has to speech sounds and language structure, the sooner they will begin to understand it.
When reading books, keep in mind you don't have to read them word for word.
Instead...simply look at the pictures and talk about what you see. For example...
When reading Cinderella, you might say "Oh no she lost her shoe" or "those mice turned into horses", etc.
This accomplishes two things.
Try to read at least one book a day.
- Your child learns to use their imagination.
- Your child builds/strengthens their receptive and expressive language skills.
ASK OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
- Be careful here. Don't bombard your child with question after question thinking that this will build high language skills. Think of yourself as a model and conversation partner, not a tester.
Open ended questions are when the answer can be a variety of things and not answered by "yes" or "no". These questions will teach your child how to think "hard" and reason for themselves.
Here are some examples of how to turn simple questions into open ended ones:
Question:Did you go to the store?
Open Ended: Where did you go?
Follow Up Question: What did you see?
Question:Was that book good?
Open Ended: What did you like about that book?
Follow Up Question: How would you change the book?
"Tell me about..." is my favorite phrase to use when I focus on language skills.
- REPEAT WORDS OFTEN
Especially when your children are young. They need to hear sounds and words at least 100 times before they will even start trying to say it. Don't limit how many times you say the same word.
I use an example of Dora the Explorer in another section of our site close to the bottom of the page. One of the songs they sing is about her Map.
In one short song they say the word 12 times. Repetition is the key to learning...and it is how to improve communication skills.
- DRAW CONCLUSIONS / EXPLAIN CONSEQUENCES
The earlier you teach your children this concept, the better. It doesn't mean you need to ground your 2 year old for a week, but when something happens or they do something wrong, help them understand why.
I'm not going to lie to you, this takes practice and patience but it will pay off in the long run, not to mention build stronger reasoning skills.
Example for a younger child:
Child stands on chair, falls off, and starts to cry (assuming they didn't really injure themselves)
A parent could say: "You fell down" or "You got hurt", "You shouldn't stand on chairs"
Example for an older child:
Child doesn't tell you where they were going.
A parent could say: "What could happen if you get hurt and I don't know where you are? Remember you can and should do this in a positive way as well.
Child follows your directions to clean their room.
A parent could say: "Thank you for cleaning your room, you can play with your friends longer today because you did what I asked."
- PRAISE YOUR CHILD FOR TALKING
This is another one that needs to be balanced. You don't need to tell your child how great they are talking after everything they say.
Space it out. Tell them at least a few times a day. More when they're younger.
For younger children:
When they call something by the right name, say "Nice talking" or "You're right that is a..." or "You are such a good talker"
For older children:
You might compliment them when they use a new vocabulary word that you modeled for them. You might say, "Hey, look at you using such a big vocabulary." Because you are modeling for them right...after all that was tip number 5.
You can praise them for solving a problem on their own or if you notice they say a complex or grammatically correct sentence by saying...
- "You solved that all on your own"
- "I like how you thought that through"
- "That was an impressive sentence"