- Follow your child's lead
- Narrate what you're doing
- Build on what your child can already say
Following Your Child's LeadWhen you follow your child's lead, you recognize what your child is interested in and you focus on that. So if your child is looking at a bird, talk about the bird your child is interested in, instead of directing your child's attention to what you are interested in. Being in tune with your child's naturally occurring interests is how you capture the best language learning opportunities.
Narrating Your ActionsThis is taking "talking to yourself" to a whole new level. Instead of talking out loud to organizing your thoughts, talk out loud to explain to your child what you're doing. This out loud explaining of what you're doing is called narrating. Narrating is like being a sports caster. You get to talk about everything that's going on and make it exciting! Your child may watch you pour cereal and milk every day for breakfast, but if you never say "cereal" or "milk," how will your child learn those words?
Enhancing Your Child's LanguageOnce your child is talking, your job is to add on to what they're saying and make it grammatically correct. These strategies are called expansion and extension, but remembering how to use them is more important than knowing what they're called.
Expansion is when you make your child's utterances grammatically correct and a few words longer. So if your child says, "Big rock," then you say "That's a big rock," "I see a big rock." You've used your child's own words and shown them how to say them in a phrase that's a little bit longer. Extension is when add on a little bit more information to what your child says. If your child says, "Big Rock," then you say something like "That's a big gray rock" or "That's a big rock in the road." You're adding on more information when you mentioned new information like the item's color and location. It's super easy to use expansion and extension when you're just talking with your child. I've seem moms at the grocery store use these strategies. It makes me super excited because that's the whole goal, for parents to teach language and listening during the spontaneous and unstructured moments.
Wired for LanguageEver doubt that you can help your child learn to communicate? Don't. Our brains are hard-wired to learn language and language development starts before we're even born. Whether your child easily learns language with these simple strategies or needs more support to learn to communicate, it can be done. For children with language delays or other special needs, different and more structured approaches may be needed to learn to communicate but just about everyone can learn to communicate whether it is with talking, ASL, an alternative communication system, or eye gaze. (Want to see an awesome communication system in action? Check out this clip from Speechless.)
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Share below how you've incorporated these simple strategies into your day-to-day, spontaneous interactions with your child!Image Courtesy of ambermcauley / Pixabay