All parents want to give their kids the best start in life and no parent would ever knowingly stand in the way of their kids’ speech and language development. Nevertheless, there will always be some approaches to nurturing speech and language development that are more effective and therefore more highly-recommended than others. Exactly where and how to draw the line between the helpful and the counterproductive can be difficult unless you are already a qualified speech and language therapist, so it’s good to know that many of the professionals working in the industry are more than happy to share their advice.
So with this in mind, what follows is a quick introduction to 10 genuinely terrific tips for parents looking to nurture strong speech and language development in their toddlers:
- First of all, there really is no such thing as reading to a toddler too much. The more they hear your voice in any everyday context, the more they will naturally pick up. However, it’s always more effective to choose books and reading material in general that they will have an active interest in. And when reading to your younger kids, take the time to describe and talk about the pictures instead of just reading the text word for word.
- Patience very much comes into play to when it comes to nurturing toddler speech skills – don’t fall into the habit of anticipating or pre-empting what it is your child wants. Give them enough time to finish what it is they are trying to say rather than jumping the gun half way through.
- Try to get into the habit of speaking something of an on-going monologue throughout the day describing what it is you are doing as you do it. From washing the dishes to working from home and really anything else across the board, give them an audible and on-going account of what you are doing.
- And the same also goes for describing what it is your child is doing as they are doing it in real-time. This is often one of the most fantastic ways of encouraging a child to associate their daily activities and interests with verbal communication.
- Make sure that when and where your child makes any significant improvement or indeed a clear effort to improve, their efforts are sufficiently praised and acknowledged. During these important years, confidence and a feeling of accomplishment are absolutely imperative to the child’s development.
- Another good habit to get into is that of expanding on what it is your child says to you in order to help developer their vocabulary and language skills. If for example, your child was to point at a picture of a dog and simply say ‘dog’, you could expand on this by saying ‘big black dog’ and so on.
- One of the most powerful, effective and enjoyable tools and resources at your disposal when it comes to nurturing strong language skills and vocabulary development is music. Kids instinctively adore music and it tends to be so much easier for them to remember words and phrases if they are accompanied by memorable music. So along with listening to music together as regularly as possible, don’t be afraid to test your own singing skills!
- Never forget that one of the biggest parts of communication in general as a child begins to develop is sign language. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of crucial importance to teach every child to communicate comprehensively using sign language, but it is nonetheless important to acknowledge the fact that children can and will communicate using facial expressions, body language and gestures in general before they are able to talk. This should be encouraged as this kind of communication can serve as a solid bridge over the gap between speech and language.
- Rather than asking direct questions with yes or no answers, make the effort to use open-ended questions when and where possible. Instead of saying ‘would you like this’ for example, switch instead to ‘what would you like’.
- Last but not least, perhaps the single most important tip of all is that of never putting any excessive pressure on your child when it comes to speech and language development or in any way giving the impression that the process is a chore. You need to ensure it is kept as enjoyable and approachable as possible as the moment your toddler takes unkindly to the idea, your job will be made infinitely more difficult.