0-2 Years
  • Even though your children may not use words or sentences at this age, speech and language activities are still crucial to their development! When your baby makes sounds (coos, babbles, etc.), look at them and make sounds back to them. This demonstrates the reciprocity that later developing communication and language skills teach.
  • Teach your baby to do things that you do! Teach them to make faces, make funny sounds, clap their hands, or play peek-a-boo. They want to communicate with others, even at such a young age, so teaching them communication skills young will instill the desire to continue to communicate as they get older.
  • Talk to your baby when you are doing an activity together. For example, if you are at the grocery store, talk to your baby about what you are doing and where you are going. You can talk to them about what you are putting in the cart and what you are going to make with the items. If your child is able, ask the child what color, size, or shape the items are, as well as ask questions about the items such as, “do you like apples?” or “what is your favorite kind of juice?”
2-4 Years
  • At this age, children will begin using more words and phrases, so it is important to respond to what they say as well as let them know you understand what they are conveying to you.
  • Repeat what your child says and expand on their statements. If they are asking for juice you could say, “You would like some juice? Okay here is some juice. This is grape juice. Grape juice is purple and tastes like grapes!” Doing this allows your child to know you understood what they were saying as well as giving them language models for giving additional information.
  • When reading books with your children, ask questions about the pictures and the story. Make sure to ask who, what, where, when, and why questions, instead of just yes or no questions. Asking these “WH” questions fosters better language use and development as well as begins to develop the skills of describing. If your child displays an interest in a certain picture or idea in the book, spend extra time discussing that picture or idea. You can talk about and read other books that contain those same ideas as well as find things around your house that are similar. Children are more apt to use their language and communication skills when they are focused on something they prefer.
4-6 Years
  • At this age, children are speaking in sentences and learning new words and ideas everyday. It is important that you pay attention to what your child is saying and that you respond to them appropriately creating a back-and-forth conversation.
  • Help your child learn new words. When they hear a word they do not know, tell them what the word means and use it in a way that lets them know what it means. For example, if they have not heard the word “glad”, you can define it by saying, “glad means being happy about something”. This definition lets them know what the word means and also gives them a word they do know that is similar: happy.
  • Play a game in which you say a word and your child has to put that word into a category. For example, if you say “apple”, the category could be “things that are red”, “fruit”, or “something you eat”. Have your child categorize all kinds of words. You can also play that your child has only 3 categories, and they have to pick between those categories for the word you gave them.

By Taylor Villarreal MA, CF-SLP Speech Pathologist