How To Support Your Child’s Speech And Language Development

By Freya Lucas

Research shows that the best way to support speech and language development is to talk together, frequently and naturally. In a childcare setting, children are surrounded by many different examples of speech and language, both from their peers, and from their educators.

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Educators use many strategies to support children’s language development in our centres including:

  • Reading and sharing books with children
  • Following children’s lead – for example, a child may point at a banana and say “na-na” Educators will respond with a smile, and say something like “Yes! Bananas are yummy aren’t they? I had banana on my porridge this morning”
  • Narrating the everyday moments, such as nappy change time, transitions, and outdoor play. Educators use speech to describe to the children what is happening in their world.
  • Responding to children – when children cry, shake their head, or point to something, educators will respond with speech, providing the building blocks for future language learning.                

We are proud to partner with Dr Kaylene Henderson a leading Child Psychiatrist. Dr Henderson has written previously about what parents and care givers can do to encourage the development of their children’s speech and language. The following is an exert of Dr Henderson’s blog “Speech and Language Development and Delays in Young Children”:

Children are learning to communicate with us even from birth and their understanding of language begins soon after.

Speech and language development plays a critical role in children’s social development, their behaviour, their learning of early literacy skills and in the development of their self-esteem.

How you can encourage your child’s speech and language development:

  • Start talking to your child at birth. Children start to understand the language we use long before they can use it themselves. We can talk to our children about what we’re doing and what our plans are for the day. The more children hear and see us speak with them, the quicker they will be able to learn how to talk themselves.
  • Respond to your baby’s coos and babbling as your baby’s attempts at conversation. Pause and take turns listening and talking – you are starting to teach your child important social skills.
  • Play simple games with your baby like peek-a-boo. Play is a great opportunity for face-to-face language based interaction with your child.
  • When your child is talking to you, make sure you listen patiently to what he is trying to say. Look at him and give him as long as he needs to respond. Make sure you acknowledge your child when he is talking and answer his questions to reinforce his efforts.
  • Read books out loud to your baby or young child. Make this part of your daily routine and encourage a love of reading.
  • Ask questions, tell stories and sing songs together
  • When your child is talking in single words or short sentences, repeat his comment or request as a full sentence, not to correct him but to model what you want him to learn, e.g. If your child says “milk” you can respond with, “Can I please have some milk? Yes of course.’’
  • Similarly when he is learning grammar and the correct use of pronouns, don’t criticise your child, but instead model the correct grammar or use of pronouns for him in your responses, e.g. if your child says, “me want food”, you can respond with, “Can I please have some food? Sure. What would you like?”

We are passionate about supporting our families with the development of each child in their fundamental first five years. If you require any guidance or information about your child’s development please feel free to reach out to one of our educators who will support you as best they can or point you in the right direction of someone who can. 

Dr Kaylene Henderson is passionate about sharing practical, research based advice to help you feel more calm and confident while raising kind, resilient and socially and emotionally healthy children. www.drkaylenehenderson.com

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