Parents, hands up if you can’t wait to hear your child’s first words!
It’s truly a wonderful thing when toddlers learn to say words and string together sentences, but not only is it cute – it’s a crucial life skill. As parents, we play an important role in helping our children learn how to talk. Read on for some useful tips on how to encourage strong communication skills in your child.
- Make eye contact when talking with your child. Eye contact is an important element in all communication, and it especially helps strengthen parent-child interactions. It’s even more effective when the parent matches the child’s eye level, so kneel or lower yourself to your child’s level to speak to them.
- Use a sing-song voice. When children hear words at different volumes, pitch and length, it attracts them to listen for a longer duration. Speaking in a melodic way helps children pay more attention to the interaction.
- Talk about daily activities. When you go through your every-day routine with your child, such as eating, bathing and playing – talk about it with them. For example, during dinner time you could name the food and ask your child questions. Use these opportunities to stimulate language development in your child since the repetition of words and sentences is highly effective in doing so.
- Encourage children to take turns in communication. It is important for them to learn that when someone talks, they should listen and vice versa. Children can learn turn-taking even as a baby, when Mom and Dad speak and then wait for the baby’s response (which is usually a vocalization of sounds). Continue turn taking by imitating your baby vocalization and add on new sounds. Give time for your baby to respond. The waiting time is important to make sure your child understands his turn.
- Create opportunities to communicate. Give more opportunities for your child to vocalize what they want, need and feel. For example, you could ask “Do you want a banana or an apple?” This helps them understand that their response actually has an impact on others and thus will encourage them to initiate more communication.
- Use simple sentences that are appropriate to the child’s stage of development. Usually, short sentences of 2-3 words are encouraged, such as “It’s dinner time”.
- Repeat daily activities for stimulation. Repeated activities such as reading books (even if your child is still unable to read), playing and singing are useful for language development as it involves the repetition of words and sentences. Encourage your child to repeat after you.
- Encourage them to do simple tasks. Always encourage your child to be as independent as they are able to, according to their age. This will help in the development of gross and fine motor skills which also play their roles in language and learning. Encourage them to feed themselves (18 months old) or dress themselves (3-4 years old), for example.
- Encourage physical and artsy activities. Negative emotions can affect development, particularly language development. According to research, physical and art activities can help children express their feelings effectively and help to promote better speech-language skills.
Remember that every child’s development is different. Some may start talking faster than others. It is our duty as parents to help our children reach their full potential using these tips and techniques. Remember to praise their progress, no matter big or small, to keep them motivated!