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Sometimes, it is difficult to know if you are doing the right thing for teaching language and promoting development in the home. Luckily, there are lots of things we can do to support language and development through our everyday interactions and activities at home. Below are some tips for creating an environment that supports and encourages language development:
Use items and activities that motivate your child and encourage them to label it. For example, if your child loves apples, cut the apple into small pieces and request 'apple' before giving them each piece, This strategy can be used across toys, for example, holding back puzzle pieces, parts of a train track, Mr Potato Head parts. Encourage communication by knowing what motivates your child.
Nonverbal communication is a large proportion of language. Use gestures and your voice while communicating. For instance nod your head while saying “yes”, shake your head “no”, wave while saying bye bye, tap on a chair when saying sit down, put your hand out and say “hold hands”. These gestures will assist understanding and create opportunities for imitation. If your child points to a toy, assume that this is a request for something, honour it and give them the toy. Put favourite toys out of reach but in sight to encourage pointing.
Create opportunities for your child to make choices throughout their day. To do this hold up two items (one toy/food that they want and one which they don’t), the item that your child reaches for is the one that they want. Label the item before giving it to them.
For early learners with little or no language, use language that is direct and to the point. Simplify language by removing filler words in sentences, keep sentences clear and concise. By doing this, it makes it easier for a child to understand and follow instructions, it creates associations between words and items and creates opportunities to imitate. For example replace “Daniel lets go play in the sitting room with the trains” with “play”, “ trains”. Once a child can speak and follow simple directions, increase the sentence length to small phrases “Let’s play trains”, “Go to sitting room”.
Follow your child’s lead in play, accompany words with items that they are playing with. For example, if they are playing with Peppa say “Peppa”, if Peppa is going down a slide say “woooo” or “slide”, moving a car “beep beep”, “car”. Show your child new and fun ways of playing with toys and activities that they already enjoy, interrupt to make it more fun only.Play games that encourage social interaction such as songs, chasing, hiding etc. When playing and speaking to your child ensure that you are at their eye level to encourage eye contact.
Consistently label sounds, actions etc. For example when in the car “Mum is driving”, at the table “X is eating”. Try and incorporate this into your daily life, continuously giving your child the vocabulary of what is happening in their environment.
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