You’re stumped and confused. It seems like your child understands everything you’re saying, but isn’t saying anything back. Here’s the good news-- if this sounds like your child, he has some solid receptive language skills to build upon. We just need to get his expressive language going! Here are some techniques you can utilize at home to support your child’s expressive language development:
It’s no question that a child’s play skills are linked to their speech and language development. Get on the floor, grab your child’s favorite toys, and engage them in interactive play! Pretend you’re making dinner together with play food and utensils, or build houses and towers with building blocks! You’ll help their speech-language development while building a bond with your child!
2. Keep talking
Self talk and parallel talk are common speech-language strategies that you can continually employ throughout the day, as well as during play. Self talk is when you describe what you’re doing (e.g. I’m pushing the car!), and parallel talk is when you describe what you’re child is doing (e.g. You’re pushing the car!). It goes a long way to give your child consistent language input.
3. Use simple phrases
While it is true that talking to your child is important, it is equally important to pay attention to how you are saying it! When you’re starting off, try to use short, one to three word phrases. Practice using a sing-song voice-- this will make your voice much more interesting and fun to listen to!
4. Sing songs
Songs are catchy and fun for children to listen to, and it’s a great way for them to pick up on language!
5. Make big gestures
Children will usually imitate larger gestures before they imitate smaller movements (like speech!). When you’re singing songs, try as much as possible to pair them with gestures! Some of my favorite go-tos are “Wheels on the Bus” and “One Little Finger.”
6. Pause and wait
It can be tempting to continually talk-- silence can be uncomfortable! But that is something to get used to too! When you’re singing songs, you can employ the pause and wait technique. For example, when singing “Old MacDonald,” you can sing, “Old MacDonald had a farm, EE-I-EE-I” and then pause and wait for about 3-5 seconds. See if your child will fill in the “O!” If he doesn’t, you can go ahead and fill in the blank.
7. Make sounds and noises
Be loud! While you’re playing with cars, say, “Vroom-vroom!” When you’re playing with animals, say “Moo!” or “Neigh!” When something exciting happens, enthusiastically say, “Yay!” These sounds are usually easier to imitate than single words, and is a great place to start with children who are not yet verbal.
8. Follow their lead
During play, let your child be the leader, and pay attention to what they want to do! If they wander over to the legos, go and play with the legos. If they want to throw a ball, go and throw the ball with them. Add language to whatever they want to do, instead of spending time trying to get them to participate in a task you want them to do. It’ll make life a lot easier for the both of you.
9. Imitate them
Do what they do or say! If they start jumping, jump with them! If they produce any sort of sound, imitate that same sound. When you do this, you’re showing them how to imitate, and it shows them that their communicative attempts are meaningful! Imitating sounds and words will usually come prior to spontaneous expressive language.
10. Practice taking turns
You can do this with toys like a shape sorter, or building blocks. We naturally take turns during conversation, and taking turns with these types of toys will help to develop that particular skill.
It takes a great deal of practice to employ these techniques, so be patient with yourself and with your child! If you’re concerned for your child’s speech and language development, please reach out to us here at Expressive Connections! We would be happy to answer any questions, and work with you to support your child’s communicative needs!