You can use any item around the house, any routine, and any place you visit to develop language. This post will provide ideas and break down the most beneficial strategies to develop language with your child during everyday activities.
There are two areas of language that are important to remember when working with your child. They are totally different but equally important!
- Receptive language describes the child’s ability to process and understand language (ie. following directions).
- Expressive language describes the child’s ability to use words and put sentences together (ie. vocabulary and sentence length).
A child’s receptive language skills have to come before we can expect them to use their expressive language skills. For example, we can’t expect them to ask for juice if they can’t point to juice specifically when we name it. It is important to monitor your child’s developmental milestones which can be found here: https://charlottespeechhearing.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/when-to-refer-a-child.pdf
Here are examples of how you can incorporate language development into daily routines:
These routines can often become automatic and expected but there is so much opportunity for language growth here. You can practice language while getting dressed by talking through it, asking questions, and giving directions.
Talk through it.
- Have conversations about the weather and what clothes may be appropriate to wear that day. “Hmm it’s rainy outside. Should wear our rain boots and a rain jacket today?”
- This is also a good time to practice pronouns (ie. Mine, yours, his, hers, theirs). “Here are my boots! Here are yours!”
- While putting shoes on say something like- “Socks on first! Next we put our shoes on! Pull them up.” Use spatial words such as on, up, under, top, behind, etc. Providing a gesture or showing while saying the word will help the child learn that word.
*A child needs to hear a word 6-12 times before they learn a word and add it to their own vocabulary. The more times you can use that word and relate it in real life is helpful!
“Where do we keep your shoes? When do we wear a sweater? What do we wear on our hands?” Why, when, where, what questions are all great questions to ask to encourage that expressive language.
*Children should be answering simple wh- questions, such as these, appropriately around 12 to 18 months old.
Give your child options
- “Do you want your purple shirt or green shirt today?” Allow and encourage them to verbalize their choice by giving them an expectant look or wait time.
- A 2 year old should be encouraged to combine 2 words (i.e. “want green”) and 3 year old, 3 words (i.e. “I want green”). Their average length of response will continue to increase with age.
- A 2 year old should be able to follow 1-step directions, such as “Hand me your pink shoe, please”. A 3 year old should be able to follow 2-step directions such as “Hand me your shoe and shirt, please”.
- Modifiers and attributes (ie. color or size) are not always necessary when giving directions but are beneficial in encouraging more language.
Again, this routine can become automatic, but it can be used to develop more language! Remember the more language a child hears and uses, the faster and more they will learn!
Talk about what the toothpaste looks or tastes like.
- “This toothpaste tastes minty! What do you taste?” or “This toothpaste is white. It is different from our last tube! We used to have a blue toothpaste.”
- Talk through the entire process “first we take our toothbrush, then we put some toothpaste on it and then we brush each tooth!” Eventually try to have them teach you or a sibling how to do it!
“Hand me your blue toothbrush.” Or “turn on the cold water.” Giving the child a wait time before showing them how to do it, allowing them the opportunity to process the direction you gave them. If they do not proceed, repeat the direction “turn on the cold water” and show them the handle to pull. The next time, try again to wait and allow them to do it themselves.
- “Why are we brushing our teeth? Why do we go to the dentist? When do we brush our teeth?” Answering questions requires the child to process the question and provide an appropriate answer.
- Remember to give your child a wait time to have an opportunity to answer. If your child is still developing this skill, provide a choice of answers. “Do we brush our teeth because we are thirsty or because they are dirty?”
Having your child involved in the kitchen is a great way to encourage language and get them excited about food and cooking. Making cooking and cleaning fun will benefit you and hopefully create a kitchen helper! Help turn everyday activities into a positive and fun experience.
Name the foods you eat. Talk about their taste, feel, and colors.
- “Wow this is a huge apple! Huge means big.” And “Feel this corn, it is bumpy”.
- Show them and allow them to participate by touching and saying.
Name the actions you are doing.
- “I am stirring the soup. I am beating the eggs. We are eating.”
- Provide multiple repetitions and exposures to the word before expecting the child to use it themselves. This is again a good opportunity to use and teach pronouns.
* Using present progressive word form (ie. –ing words) is an important expressive language skill we want to see children using around 24 to 36 months.
- “When do we eat breakfast?”, “Where do we keep the milk? I forgot!”, “What should we do with this egg?”. Give them a wait time to have the opportunity to respond.
- If the child does not answer on their own yet, provide two choices for them or a carrier phrase. “We keep the milk in the fridge to keep it….” And wait for them to finish the sentence.
- A carrier phrase is a strategy we use by giving an unfinished sentence or phrase to help the child produce an appropriate response. Eventually you will want to fade this cue away.
Add in some new skills!
- Try talking about similarities and differences between food and other items in the kitchen. If you have 3 apples, 2 red and 1 green and ask your child “Which one is different?”, “Why is it different?”, and “Which ones are the same?”. We often have mismatched plates or bowls, or even different size plates. These would all provide great opportunities to talk about similarities and differences.
- Teach negation. “which apple is not red?” or “which plate has no fork?”.
*Understanding and using negation (ie. not, no, none) is a skill we expect to see around 24 to 36 months.
Start small and build up. You don’t have to do all of this every day or every activity during the day. Pick one activity a day and focus on ways you can increase language during that activity. Learning how to do it and becoming comfortable will take time but know that any language is better than none. This will eventually lead to using these strategies for all activities, every day, without even thinking about it!
If you suspect your child is behind in any of the mentioned developmental milestones, please contact us to schedule a speech-language evaluation with one of our expert Speech-Language Pathologists.
For more helpful speech-language resources, such as this, visit our Resources for Families page and our YouTube channel.