As your child’s parent/caregiver, you are their first and best teacher. By adding language into your everyday activities, you can help your child grow their speech and language skills.
You can turn simple routines and playtime into a language-learning experience by doing things like:
These suggestions can help you create back-and-forth interactions and model language in everyday activities:
It is easier for children to learn new words when you talk about things they enjoy. Watch for clues, such as:
If your baby or child turns or pushes away from something, this usually means they are not interested in it, or they need a break from that toy/activity.
Once you know what your child is interested in – join in and play. This creates many opportunities for your child to learn language and interact with you.
*Note: if your child is not playing safely, do not copy or join in with their play. Instead, calmly state a clear rule or boundary (example: “I won’t let you throw the blocks”) and help your child find a safe way to play.
Video: A few words about first words…you are the key to your child’s first words (01:31).
This video discusses the importance of following your child’s lead, discovering your child’s interests, and using words to talk about whatever has caught your child’s attention. When you have fun with your child and add words to the interaction, it will help your child learn language, and may help them to say their first words.
When babies and children are still learning, the ways they communicate won’t match how an adult would communicate. They may share their ideas without using words (example: looking, crying, pointing, grunting), and they make mistakes in the way they make words or sentences.
Tip: If your child is using words, but the words and sentences are hard to understand, repeat their message back correctly to help them learn how to say the words. You do not need to point out the mistakes – simply repeat the message how you would say it. For example:
Video: Playing with Language Video Series Part 1: Play Time (03:44)
Children need to understand words before they can say them. You can help them learn new words by adding language to play and daily activities.
Tip: when your child is first learning language, use words that can help your child share their needs (examples: help, hungry/eat, more, mine, stop).
Video: Playing with Language Video Series Part 3: Meal Time (05:36)
Children need opportunities to join in back-and-forth interactions when they are learning how to communicate. For young babies, taking a turn may be a wiggle, facial expression or a sound. Toddlers and children may take a turn using a gesture, facial expression or words/sentences.
Waiting gives your baby or child time to think about what has just happened and then take a turn. Some children need more time to take a turn – especially young babies and toddlers.
If your child does not take a turn after five to ten seconds of waiting, you can say something new or give them a new opportunity to communicate and wait again.
Video: Conversations Pave the Way for First Words (01:37).In this video, we learn the importance of getting face-to-face with our child. When we get face-to-face, it allows us to pick up on cues that our child is using to communicate (e.g., like using gestures, or looking). When we respond to these cues with words, we are starting a back-and-forth interaction or conversation.
If you are concerned about your child’s communication development, contact a registered speech-language pathologist for help. There are many service options in Toronto.
The Preschool Speech and Language Program in Ontario provides assessment and intervention for preschool aged children with communication delays/difficulties, and their families. To access these services in Toronto, contact Surrey Place.
If your child is attending school, contact your child’s school board to access speech and language supports and services.
You can also find a speech-language pathologist in your community, through the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario. There may be a cost associated with community-based speech and language services.