12 tips to talking
The following are some ways in which you can help your child learn to talk, but be patient! The process is gradual and may seem slow. Words may be unclear and your child may stumble or hesitate. This is normal.
- Talk to your child when you are playing together.
- Have fun with nursery rhymes and songs, especially those with actions.
- Encourage your child to listen to different sounds e.g. aeroplanes, animals or the post man delivering his letters.
- Gain your child’s attention when you want to talk together.
- Encourage your child to communicate in any way, not just through words.
- Increase vocabulary by giving choices e.g. “Do you want milk or water?”
- Talk about things as they happen e.g. unpacking the shopping, having a bath.
- Listen carefully and give your child time to finish. Take turns to speak.
- Give your child opportunities to talk.
- Help your child to use more words by adding to what is said e.g. “ball” can be expanded to “throw the ball” or ‘the ball has gone”.
- If your child says something incorrectly, say it back to them the right way. Do not make your child repeat it.
- Try and have a special time with your child each day to play with toys and picture books with no background noise e.g. turn the TV/music off.
Being able to pay attention to something is a key building block for developing language skills. Children need to be able to focus on an activity and ignore other distractions around them. They also need to be able to focus on the sounds that make up words and ignore other background noises. As they get older and start nursery and school, they need to be able to focus and remember information in order to be able to learn.
What should you do?
Help your child to pay attention to you when you are talking and playing with them.
- Turn the TV or radio off so background noise is reduced and your child can focus on what you are saying.
- Make sure you have your child’s attention by getting down to their level and making eye contact. If necessary, say their name or touch their arm or face to ensure they are looking at you when you are talking to them.
- Only have a few toys out at a time. Too many choices of toys can overwhelm young children and be distracting.
- Keep your games simple with a definite end, e.g. build with bricks, look at a book, complete a ring stacker, shape sorter or puzzle. Try turn taking activities or listening games.
- Encourage your child to stay and finish the game before moving away. Gently bring them back if they try to pick up something else.
- Give them lots of praise when they finish something. Tell them “good listening” when they focus on what you are saying.
What shall I do next?
If your child will only stay on a game for a minute, build up slowly. The next day encourage them to stay for 2 minutes, then 3 minutes. If your child likes to empty boxes, encourage them to finish the “game” by then putting everything away again.
Building listening skills
Being able to listen is a key building block for developing language skills. Children need to be able to focus on the sounds that make up words and ignore other background noises. As they get older and start nursery and school, they need to be able to listen and remember information and instructions in order to be able to learn.
What should you do?
There are lots of fun games that help to develop good listening skills:
- Copying Games – encourage your child to copy simple actions, i.e. clapping, waving, stamping feet, jumping, lying down, sleeping.
- Musical instruments – try to keep your child’s attention whilst playing with the instruments. Encourage them to copy what you are doing, i.e. banging on a drum, shaking the bells etc. Play “go” and “stop”.
- Sing nursery rhymes with actions – if your child knows the words, pause at the end of each line so they have to listen and fill in the missing word.
- Stop and listen – as you go through the day, sometimes just stop and listen. Talk about the sounds you can hear, e.g. washing machine, dog barking, cars going past.
- Use the wrong word – with words that your child knows, say the wrong word, e.g. point at daddy and say “there’s nana”. This makes them listen to you and they love putting you right!
- Ask for objects – using 3 objects or pictures you know your child knows, gain their attention and then ask them to give you one of the objects or pictures. You can make this into a posting or shopping game or hide the objects around the room, to make it more fun.
What shall I do next?
Try gradually building up the length of time your child can spend carrying out a listening activity. If your child will only listen for a minute, build up slowly. The next day encourage them to stay for 2 minutes, then 3 minutes. Ask them to listen and copy two instructions, e.g. ‘clap then wave’, ‘bang a drum then shake the rattle’, ‘find the car and ball’.