How can I help my child’s language skills?

Children learn to talk by listening to people around them, and mimicking sounds and mouth shapes. It helps to make sounds and talk together throughout the day.  Simple, everyday activities are great opportunities to encourage your child’s language skills.

Mother with baby in arms sat next to toddler looking at iPad

Snack time

Encourage your child to try new words by giving choices instead of yes/no questions. For example, try asking “Would you like raisins or a banana?” instead of “would you like a banana?”.

While walking

Take a walk to the park or the shops and talk about what you can hear. Is it a loud noise or a quiet noise? Is it an animal or a car? Copying the noises can be great fun, too.

Shared time

Next time you watch a film together, ask about their favourite part. A good prompt is “I thought it was really exciting when…”. This lets them give more information than yes/no questions like “Did you like the film?”.

Fun chores

Let your child help you sort the washing by calling out the colour or name of each item. Encourage them to build simple sentences from single words. “Socks” could become “my socks” or “red socks”, then go from there.

What if my child needs help?

Sometimes, children may need help learning to speak. If their progress seems to be delayed, take them to a doctor for a check-up. Speech and language therapy can help get things on track, particularly for younger people. You can access this through your child’s special educational needs co-ordinator or your GP.

You might also try Makaton, which uses a combination of picture symbols and hand gestures. Makaton uses signs alongside speech to give extra clues about what’s being said.

For further information and ideas, visit children’s communication charity I CAN.

Go back

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Communication milestones for young children: speech and language


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