9 ways to encourage spontaneous, meaningful language

This spring, parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 5 participated in a special workshop at the library, learning how to enrich their children’s lives with language and play.

Pediatric speech-language pathologist Clare Kilbride from Kids Unlimited Therapy Services in Oak Park joined us to discuss communication milestones, red flags for communication, and practical ways to encourage spontaneous, meaningful language.

Here, Kilbride shares some tips:

#1: Talk out loud

Talk out loud about what you or your child is doing. Use simple words during routines, such as:

  • “Wash, wash” during bath time
  • “Eat, eat” during feeding/meal time
  • “Mix, mix” while cooking
  • “Put on” while dressing

#2: Make mistakes!

Miss a step in routine to see if your child notices or fills in the missing part.

#3: Model simple language

And expand on it. For example, “up” becomes “go up.”

#4: Imitate their skills

Including their play, gestures, and words.

#5: Try not to predict…

…your child’s needs when possible. Allow your child to use any mode of communication to request something, such as sound, words, pointing, or looking between you and the object.

#6: Increase opportunities

Give them only one of a desired item to increase opportunities for communication and interaction.

#7: Read aloud

Even if it’s just saying one word per page.

#8: Repeat it back the correct way

If your child makes an error, just repeat it back to them the correct way.

#9: Give it time

Silence is okay! Pause and allow your child time to process language—and all the sights and sounds of their environment—before you expect them to respond.

For more information on your child’s communication, contact Kilbride at clarekilbrideslp@gmail.com.

Find library resources on raising an early learner, including storytimes and 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten »

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