Encouraging language development - Sunnybrook Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic
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Tips for parents of an 18-month-old

Encouraging language development

The following organizations have great tips and reliable information about child development:

Strategies:

Expand. Respond to your child by adding words to what he/she is saying. For example, at bath time, if your child points to the tap to ask you to turn on the water, you can say “water on.”

Name objects and actions. During daily routines, tell your child the names of the objects you are using (for example, say “cup” when you give your child a cup), and the actions you are making (for example, say “open” when you are opening a jar).

Use different kinds of words. It’s natural to tell your child the names of things but your child needs to learn many other kinds of words as well. Words can be used for: questions (what, where), describing (big, soft), actions (sleep, eat), belonging (mine, mommy’s), locations (up, down), feelings (happy, sad), and social reasons (bye, goodnight).

Read, read, read! Provide many opportunities for reading picture books and storybooks. While sharing a book, point to pictures and name them, then have your child take a turn.

Teach your child preschool rhymes and songs with actions. “Wheels on the Bus”, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “Old MacDonald” are examples. When you sing and do the actions, make it really fun and exciting and have your child copy your actions. In time, when your child has learned the words, have him/her try to sing along. You can start to sing then pause for him/her to fill in the missing word.

Create “communication temptations.” This is one way to help children to ask for things they want. This is done by leaving out something needed for an activity and waiting until the child asks for it. For example: give your child a piece of paper, but wait until he/she asks before giving him/her a crayon.

“Say Less. Stress. Go Slow. Show.”

  • Say less: Use short and simple sentences.
  • Stress: Make important words stand out.
  • Go slow: Slow your speech to give your child time to understand.
  • Show: Point, show or use gestures and actions to help your child understand.

(This concept comes from the Hanen Centre’s ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ program.)