Stimulating Pre-Language Development in Infants and Young Toddlers:
- Plant the seeds of socialization by smiling, initiating, and mirroring facial expressions and other gestures.
- Imitate vocalizations (e.g., “dadadada…”) even when they appear to have no meaning
- Engage in back and forth “conversations” in a playful way. This may start with their language, but you can respond with real words when their vocalizations begin to take on some apparent meaning.
- Try singing or reading to your child.
How to Assist with Initiation and Development of Language in Young Children
- Talk to them, even though they are not responding
- Naming and Labelling:
- In older toddlers, parents may begin providing a label for objects things in the environment.
- Items of interest should be interesting and developmentally appropriate for the child.
- Start with simple, single-syllable items (i.e., dog, ball, shoe, etc) and basic colors.
- Using enthusiastic vocal intonation will help engage and send a signal to pay attention
- Narrate what the child is doing. This is particularly helpful as they become more active
- Respond interactively to attempts to communicate with you.
Transitioning from Single to Multiple Words:
- Dedicate chunks of time to provide complete attention, so (s)he will attend to you as well.
- Use real words, not their vocabulary or other ‘baby words.’
- Describe what you are doing as you are doing it using full sentences. Include your child as an actor in the process (“Let’s go see what your sister is doing.”)
- Give them the opportunity to ask questions and engage in a dialogue
- Build upon their words with additional narration.
Strategies for Encouraging Speech Production:
- Don’t interrupt when your child is speaking, even if it takes her a long time for them to get the words out. You want to encourage speech, not cause frustration.
- Allow him/her to finish their own sentences, rather than anticipating what they are going to say.
- Ensure that other family members (including older siblings) also understand and adhere to these principles as much as possible.
- Try to use positive, rather than negative language.
- Difficulties should be met with encouragement and praise.
- If correction is warranted, it should be gentle and kept positive. Praise them for their accomplishments, even if they seem minor: “Yes, that’s very close! Try to say it like this … “
Helping advance language skills:
- During interactions, you can use tangible play objects to help demonstrate simple abstract concepts, such as:
- Same vs. Different
- Self vs. Others
- Larger vs. Smaller
- You can teach the concept that objects still exist even when they cannot be seen (object permanence) by hiding one item behind the other.
- Use normal, clear speech, rather than trying to hyper-articulate sounds.
- Consistently setting aside a small amount of time each day for these tasks will yield better results than less frequent but more extensive periods.