7 Strategies to Encourage Language Skills During Play

By: Liz McMahon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Talking with children is important for language growth and development.   How we talk to them is just as important as the words we say.  For young children and those with language delays, we want to make sure that we aren’t placing too many demands or too much pressure on them to talk.

Children need to hear language in order to learn it.  This helps them pair the word with the object or action.  For example, we need to talk about what they’re seeing and doing.  Here are a few different strategies you can do that don’t put pressure on children, but do encourage language development.

1).  Parallel Talk –  This is when the adult describes what the child is seeing, hearing or doing.  For example, while playing with blocks, you would say:

“You have blocks.  You put blocks on top.”

2).  Description – This is when you provide words to describe the objects your child is playing or interacting with, touching or seeing.  An example would be:

“It’s a car.  Red car.  Red car goes fast.”

3).  Self Talk – This is when you talk about what you are doing while your child watches.  Make sure you use short phrases.   An example of self-talk would be:

“I’m brushing my teeth.   Toothpaste on toothbrush.  Brush teeth.”

4).  Repetition – Children learn by repetition, so don’t be afraid to play with some of the same toys.  You can always change the size and shape of the objects you’re playing with to make it more interesting and/or change your voice and intonation while playing.

5).  Follow Their Lead – It’s important to follow your child’s lead. Offer choices and play with toys they’re interested in.

6).  Pause – Children need time to process what they’ve just heard.  Pause for several seconds and give them  a chance to respond to your statements.

7).  Encouragement – Children with speech and language delays need modeling and praise.  Encourage any and all vocalizations and communication attempts.

While using these techniques, you are providing great language stimulation.  Just be careful not to go too overboard.  They don’t need a play-by-play on every little item or action.  Just provide good basic information and use single words or short 2 or 3 word phrases.  If you are concerned about your child’s speech development, consult with their pediatrician and ask for a referral for a speech and language evaluation.

References:  Oh Say What They See: An Introduction to Indirect Language Stimulation Techniques by Educational Productions

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