One of the best ways to enhance the language development of your child is to provide a language-rich environment at home. Children develop their language through the opportunities they have to practice language in different environments. Creating a setting which aims to promote interaction and use of language will help your child’s communication to flourish.
Engage in pretend play:
Pretend play or imaginative play is a fun and interactive way to develop your child’s language skills. Pretend play may involve a child using an object to represent something else. For example, they may sit inside a big cardboard box and pretend it is a house or use a blanket and pretend it is a cape. Children with language difficulties often struggle with pretend play, so encouraging it at home can be highly beneficial for their language development.
When engaging in pretend play, try to follow your child’s lead by responding to their interests and participating in activities they enjoy. Letting your child lead the activity will assist in building their confidence. Pretend play can be strongly linked to story creation, problem solving, narrative language, social skills and oral language. Engaging in pretend play with your child, will help them to learn to play with others by taking turns, gaining the perspective others (through role-play) and decision making. You do not need to go out and buy new toys to engage in pretend play. You can use things you already have at home such as:
- Old clothes
- Old mobile phones
- Cooking utensils
- Books and magazines
- Large cardboard boxes or containers
Read lots of books:
Books are an excellent, interactive tool to enhance the expressive (spoken) language of your child. When reading with your child, instead of focusing on reading the story, try to talk more about the pictures in the story.
Shared book reading provides opportunity for you to engage in conversation with your child and increase their awareness of new pictures and objects. Pointing to new pictures and emphasising new words will assist in expanding their vocabulary.
Follow your child’s lead and if they point to a picture, relate it back to the story to help improve their comprehension. Talking about the characters, setting, problem, actions and resolution will help your child to make sense of the story.
Modify the environment to encourage your child to communicate:
There are many simple strategies you can try at home to encourage your child to communicate more. Instead of placing all your child’s toys on the floor so that they are available to them, try to place toys in boxes and out of the child’s reach. When your child wants to play with a certain toy, they will need to use their talking or gesture to get assistance from you. Another strategy to promote communication is during snack or meal time. Try to provide your child with options, instead of allowing them to go and get their own food from the cupboard. Try holding up two items (for example, two types of fruit, one in each hand) and ask them which they would like. If your child is unable to name either fruit, but uses pointing to indicate which item they would like, as you hand it to them, say the name of the fruit so that you are providing a language model.
Parent: “Would you like banana or apple?”
Child: (Points to the apple)
Parent: (Hands the child the apple)
“You want apple”
If you feel like you would like some further assistance with developing your child’s language skills, please contact Kids At Max on (03) 9702 4447.
Written by Kids At Max – Speech Pathologist