I’m super excited to have long time friend and professional speech-language pathologist, Kyla Hudson, joining us with a blog today. Kyla has many years of professional experience but also practical advice as she is a mother herself to 2 beautiful children. Kyla offers tips, reassurance and advice to help foster your child’s language development.
When your little one first starts learning to talk it can be a magical time… those first words are so very precious, and then as they get older and start talking more, their personality starts to shine through. They say the funniest and sweetest things. All of a sudden you are seeing things through their eyes and getting an amazing insight into how they think and the world is a wondrous place! But for many parents, the whole learning to talk thing can also be a source of stress… Is my child talking enough? Am I doing enough to help them learn? Why isn’t my child talking as much as his or her friends of the same age?
Below I share my ideas for encouraging language development and some tips about what you should and shouldn’t do before you get worried.
My ideas for encouraging language development for babies and young children of all ages:
1. Talk, read, sing, play… and then talk some more. From the very beginning, language learning is all about exposure and repetition. So talking to your bub, reading them books, and singing them songs and nursery rhymes is what it is all about… and the same thing goes as they get older. There’s no hard and fast rules about this. Talk to them about what you are doing, what they see, what they hear, how they might feel. Just talk, talk, talk! If this doesn’t come naturally to you, that’s ok. For some peopleit feels funny at first, especially if your child is not talking back. But the more you practise, the easier it gets.If you cannot get your child to sit still long enough to read them a book or sing them a song, that’s ok. Keep trying and it will come. And if you struggle, try to make it into a daily routine – bathtime, while in the car, before bed, at the dinner table or on the change table – these moments can be perfect opportunities for talking or singing or reading to your child.
2. It should be natural, and part of everyday FUN. Language development isn’t something you need to “do” with your child. It most definitely isn’t a sit downactivity! I always strive to keep things natural and fun and part of everyday play, everyday activities and daily routine. Play, play, play! Talk to your child the whole day through. Talk to your child as though they already understand. Talk with respect. Describe and explain. I like to avoid “baby talk” or setting up activities that put your child in a test situation… “What’s this? What colour is that?” –for me this is not natural or fun (although it’s not wrong, so please don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you do this…the fact that you are spending time interacting with your child means you care and you are on the right track).
3. Get down to their level and then ask for a little more. The best opportunities for language development will be during play, when you are down at your child’s level and following their lead. In this situation observe what your child is interested in and what they are doing and talk about that! I often find myself repeating and expanding. When they say “Ball” you say, “Ball! You’ve found the red ball. That’s a big ball. Do you want to roll the ball to Mum?”
4. Talk, but also listen. Don’t be so busy talking that you don’t leave enough time and space for your little one to talk too! Be careful not to take over play. Let them lead and remember their processing time will be longer than yours. Give them time, give them opportunities, don’t always give them the words… if you are always talking for them, or pre-empting their every need, they might not feel the need to talk. And of course, when they do talk, make sure you listen and respond. There’s no greater reward or motivation to talk more than
feeling like you are being listened to.
5. Talk, read, sing, play… and then talk some more(!)
What to do before you get worried:
1. Don’t compare your child to others. We’ve all fallen into this trap at one time or another. We all know we shouldn’t do it, but sometimes we do. Just don’t! There is a huge range of normal development, and comparing your child to another is an invitation for unnecessary stress and worry. Seriously, just don’t.
2. Know your milestones. I cannot emphasise this one enough. Are your expectations realistic? Do you know what your child is expected to be capable of at their age?Are you falling into the trap of comparing your child to others rather than ensuring they are within the normal range of development? Make sure you know the milestones and that you are getting your information from a reputable source. Speech Pathology Australia has a great section on “Resources for the Public” if you are in Australia. Usually health departments also have fact sheets available.
3. Understand the difference between speech and language, and the difference between comprehension and expressive language. Another big one… again, make sure you are informed and are keeping your expectations realistic.
4. Don’t ever feel like you’re not doing enough.
5. And at the end of the day, if you are still worried, seek a professional opinion from a qualified speech-language pathologist.
Here are 5 books that I recommend for engaging your child in a language-rich environment:
- ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ by Mem Fox (repetition and colour learning)
- ‘Slow Down World’ by Tai Snaith (lots of directional words and captivating images)
- ‘I’m a Dirty Dinosaur’ by Janeen Brian and Ann James (explores verbs and encourages movement)
- ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell (lift the flaps can encourage fun guessing games)
- ‘The Little Yellow Digger’ by Betty and Alan Gilderdale (simple and rhythmic language)
To find a local speech-language pathologist near you head to: