One of the questions most commonly asked to speech and language therapists up and down the United Kingdom is that of what exactly parents can do during the early years of their child’s development, in order to assist with strong speech and language development. Given the fact that it is the parents that play the most fundamentally important role in assisting kids in developing strong language skills, it simply makes sense to seek a few helpful and proactive tips from the experts. Most kids will pick up almost everything that shapes their own speech and language development naturally, but by refining and targeting efforts as a parent, it’s certainly possible to help ensure things are steered in the right direction.
So as far as the professionals are concerned, what are the most helpful and proactive habits of all that parents should consider getting into, in order to help their kids develop strong and confident language skills?
Be Careful With Baby Talk
First and foremost, it’s a rule that is slowly but surely being acknowledged by parents all over the world and can certainly be beneficial. In a nutshell, baby talk can be fantastic for interacting with infants during their earliest weeks and months, but should be avoided further down the line. The reason being that quite literally everything a child picks up by way of speech and language skills, they pick up by way of imitation. Which in turn means that the more you communicate with them using baby talk, the more challenging it will be for them to move away from baby talk and begin using normal language.
Use Facial Expressions
Also important to remember when it comes to children of a particularly young age is the way in which facial expressions and body language should be used quite expressively at all times. The simple fact of the matter is that babies and young children will begin communicating with their parents by way of body language and facial expressions long before they actually begin speaking. Paying close attention to your own facial expressions and body language and to some extent exaggerating both can make communication much simpler and also assist with their speech and language development.
Another of the most important tips offered by the vast majority of speech and language therapists is that of acknowledging the difference between spending dedicated time with a child and simply spending time in the child’s company. The difference being that when it comes to the former of the two, this involves proactively and constantly interacting with the child, listening to what they have to say and making as much effort as possible to talk to them continuously. A perfect example to illustrate the point being that of giving the child a running commentary of everything you are doing at the time (working, cleaning, studying, cooking etc.) and giving them the opportunity to respond. By contrast, it doesn’t mean responding with the occasional murmur and simply pretending you are listening to what they are saying in the background.
Eye Level Communication
Moving on, another example on extremely effective technique is that of making the effort to communicate with the child in question at eye level. Eye contact is an enormously powerful and important thing when it comes to communicating with children and assisting with their speech and language development. Eye contact and making the effort to communicate at eye level clearly demonstrates that you are listening to every word they say and have a genuine interest in what it is they have to say. By not maintaining eye contact, you essentially give the exact opposite impression – i.e. That you are not listening and are not interested.
Use Plenty Of Questions
The real beauty of questions is the way in which they not only encourage your child to speak more openly, but also demonstrates that you have an active interest in what they have to say. It’s perhaps the single best way of encouraging the child to talk more, while at the same time finding quite a lot about their thoughts, emotions and activities.
Last up, it can be extremely difficult to get into the habit of correcting a child when they are clearly trying their hardest to speak and communicate openly and accurately. Nevertheless, there comes a time when it becomes crucially important to ensure that children are made aware of the speech and language mistakes they make, in order that they may be addressed and improved. The key, of course being to ensure that all such corrections are made as gently and sensitively as possible, so as to not discourage the child in question.