You are your child’s primary language model and the best person to can help further their language development. So, what can you do if your child is not talking yet?
You can stimulate their language by doing the following:
1. Engage In Interactive Play
Stimulating language during play is very effective. This is because during play, children are engaged, attentive and motivated, which are the ideal conditions for learning. Try to find 10-15 minutes to engage in play with your child daily. During this time, you will have several opportunities to stimulate their language.
2. Stop Asking So Many Questions!
The biggest mistake parents make when playing with their child is that they ask too many questions. When you ask your child a question, you are not teaching them anything. Also, if your child is not talking yet and you are asking questions during play, your interactions will be one-sided because they do not have the words to respond.
Picture yourself interacting with someone who asks too many questions. You would feel as though you are constantly being tested and would want to avoid interacting with them in future. The same applies for children. Your child will not want to play with you again if they feel like you are always testing them.
Example: Avoid asking questions during play which come naturally to many people such as, “what’s this?” “how many are there?” “what can you see?”
3. Be Your Child’s Commentator
So, now that you are trying to avoid asking questions during play, what can you do to stimulate your child's language instead? You can comment. Imagine that you are a sports commentator and your child is the athlete. Base your comments on what toy your child is playing with and what actions they are performing. If your child is not talking yet, keep your comments very simple by using only single words. When you comment on what your child is doing, they will find play enjoyable and will be likely to want to play with you again.
Example: If your child is playing with a doll you can use simple comments such as, “baby”, “doll”, “eat”, “drink”, “sleep” etc. If your child is playing with toy cars you can use simple comments such as, “car”, “drive”, “go”, “stop”, etc.
4. Be Your Child’s Interpreter – Not Parrot
Although, your child might not be talking yet, they can still be making sounds. If your child produces a sound, try to interpret this as a word. Use the context you are in to guide you. A common mistake that parents make when their child produces a sound is to repeat this sound back to them. When you do this, you are not teaching your child anything new and thus, missing an opportunity for language stimulation.
Picture yourself interacting with someone who just repeats everything you say. This would not feel like a mutual or natural interaction and so you would be likely to avoid interacting with them next time. The same applies for children. If your child communicates by making a sound, this is their turn in the interaction. You can then take your turn by interpreting.
Example: If your child says, “baa” while holding up a toy bear, avoid repeating “baa” back to them and respond with an interpretation of this sound instead (e.g. say “bear”).
5. Let Your Child Be Captain
When you play with your child, take a step back and let them lead the play interaction. Try not to direct your child’s attention to certain toys by holding toys up to them or placing toys next to them. Instead, let your child choose which toys they want to play with. Also, try not to influence what your child does with the toy or for how long they will play with a toy. Let your child decide the events and duration of the play interaction. Your child will enjoy playing with you much more if the play interaction is not directed. As a result, they will respond better to your language stimulation. They will also be more likely to want to play with you again, which will present more opportunities for language stimulation in the future.
If you would like to be notified when my next article is released, subscribe to my mailing list and receive a free copy of The Speech & Language Development Table!
As always, please leave any comments or questions you may have below.
The Expat Speechie
I would like to acknowledge and thank the following source where the information for this post was obtained:
Pepper, J., & Weitzman, E. (2004). It Takes Two To Talk. A Practical Guide For Parents Of Children With Language Delays (Fourth Edition). The Hanen Centre: Toronto, Ontario.
Welcome to my blog!