Last week we explained the importance of developing your child’s word awareness skills here are some further games ideas to encourage them to use this new language.
- Playing tapes or CDs of nursery rhymes and children’s song are good for helping your child to make the distinction between the music and words (language used) in them. It is a good idea to practise this skill when there are no other noise distractions.
- When your child points at something tell them the name of the object, for example if they point at an apple, say “Apple”.
- Try to use the new word in context regularly as repetition of the word will help your child to remember it and reinforce the meaning of the word.
- Try playing some action songs and rhymes to help your child learn the actions for the rhyme, then let them have a go on their own. Watch them to see if they can do some of the actions at the right time in the song, to see if they are listening for the right cue words. If they are struggling, explain they have to wait for certain words and show them what to do and when to do it.
- If they are trying to say a word, let them finish and then say it back to them clearly and correctly. Do not make them repeat it back to you, they may choose to do so but make it their choice.
- Repeat and expand on what your child says, so if they say “Dog!” you may say “A big dog!” This also helps them to develop an understanding of sentence structure.
- Finger rhymes, such as ‘Round and Round the Garden’, ‘Pat-a-cake’ and ‘Incy Wincey Spider’ and action songs encourage your child to interact with words, the sounds within them and the rhythms they create. ‘Row, Row Your Boat’ is a lovely whole body movement song that encourages a rhythmic whole-body motion, which babies and toddler enjoy (as well as the adults).
- Sharing and talking about the books you are reading helps to build word knowledge, as you point to the pictures, picking out different objects. Reading out aloud helps to introduce your child to words that they may not experience in their everyday talk. This helps to expose them to new vocabulary and the sounds to be found in those words.
- Introducing and playing sorting games helps your child to build a mental filing cabinet system of categories, this helps them to remember and learn the meaning of words. Start by introducing simple categories of everyday items like food or clothes as their vocabulary increases categories such as colour, size and texture become more appropriate.
Learning to the conventions of conversation start from birth, as parents we do not really think about it in this way but it is what we tend to do naturally.
Sometime though we all need a few pointers to help us, so here are some ideas to help you develop and encourage your child to talking skills:
From Birth to 1 Years Old
- To encourage cooing and babbling. Get yourselves comfortable in a face-to-face interaction position, babies often like lying on their back or on your lap looking up at you.
- Start by talking to your child while gently tickling their tummy or neck.
- Anytime they make a sound you imitate or match the sound as best you can. It is best to wait until they have finished before you try (one of the conventions of conversation).
- Try changing or adding a new sound to the one your child has made, so if they say ‘ah’ you might say ‘ah-ooh’, this will help to keep the game interesting.
- Show that you are excited by the sound they make – smile and laugh, if you are enjoying the interaction, they will be excited by it too.
- Vocal play works best when it occurs naturally, such as playing with farm animals, for instance sheep go baa, baa or cows make a moo, moo sound.
1 to 2 Years Old
- Talk directly to your baby/toddler so they can see your facial expressions and how your lips move, as this is the beginnings of learning the conventions of communicating, listening and responding (something they cannot get from the TV, iPad or overheard conversations – indirect talk).
- Talk through everyday events, such as getting dressed; what is happening, where you are going and what the plan is for the day.
- Use your body language, expressions and gestures to help reinforce and develop your child’s neurological pathways to support understanding and comprehension.
- Share books with your baby/toddler, they may not understand what you are saying to begin with but they will be listening to the different sounds that the words make. By reading aloud you are probably using words that will introduce new sounds that your child may not be picking up from your normal day to day conversations. As they get older you are developing and increasing the range of their vocabulary.
- Babies and young children love to hear you singing and saying rhymes, this is because the language is slowed down, allowing them to hear the small units of sounds and patterns which are often repeated several times in a short time lapse. Again, the language used is often different from your day-to-day talk.
- To encourage and help your child to generate and play with sound, repeat the sounds that they make.
- Using familiar objects and toys make the noises associated with them for example a toy car, broom, broom or a toy bumble bee buzz, buzz.
- When you are out and about talk about what you can see and about the sounds they make, a cat goes meow or a train Choo, Choo, for example.
- You can use other onomatopoeic words to describe sounds, such as wooden spoons on saucepans could be bang, bang or blocks being knocked together could be click, clack.
2 to 5 Years Old
- When playing, talking and sharing new words it is important to get down to your child’s level so they can see your face and how your mouth and lips move to form the words or sounds being explored.
- Remember toddlers learn to listen best when they are taking an active role in what they are doing, especially when you or others join in eagerly with them to play the games.
- Give your child thinking and response time, this may seem like a long pause but it is worth waiting, be sure your child has finished what they wanted to say before you respond.
- Try not to finish off your child’s sentence, yes sometimes it may be quicker but just give them a little moment longer and they will get there. If it is clear they cannot think of the word they want then that is of course different.
- Before a child can really take part in meaningful interactions with others, they need to learn how to take turns. It is one of the basic elements of communication, when we are talking to someone, we leave a gap/pause so that the other person has the opportunity to respond, taking turns. Turn taking skills need to be modelled and taught to help your child develop and understand this element of communicating with others.
- To encourage your child to keep talking try nodding, smiling and using comments such as; wow, really or acknowledging something they have said by repeating rather than always asking them questions.
- We are all guilty of half-listening, especially when we are busy trying to cook dinner for example. If it is obvious that what your child wants to tell you is really important then make it clear that you are interested by saying “Just let me finish this and then I can listen to you more carefully.”