Language is the foundation of communication and helps your child express themselves, understand the world around them and connect with others. Rather than worry about setting an academic structure for your child to develop their language skills, you can seek out opportunities in your everyday routines and it can slot right in to your day-to-day life. Here are a few ideas:
- Talk to your child during mealtime, describing the food you’re having – its colour, texture, temperature and taste. Explain why food is good for you and about the different nutrients from different foods.
- Read books together, stopping to ask your child questions and discuss what’s happening in the story. Use gestures and facial expressions to enhance communication and express emotions.
- Encourage your child to name objects around them when out walking. Ask about the environment, the buildings, the cars and the people, and help them to describe what they see.
- Include music and songs into your day, learning new lyrics together. Play music while you tidy up, cook or enjoy mealtimes.
- Share stories from your own life during car rides or dinnertime. This helps them learn about the pace of language and how inflection is to change the way sentences work, such as the end of questions.
- Play games that involve taking turns and listening to each other, like “I Spy” or board games.
- Narrate the getting ready routine. Talk about brushing your teeth, washing your face and putting your clothes on. Talk about the order you put on your clothes – “underwear first, trousers second..”.
- Speak about your child’s day and ask them questions that require more than just a simple “yes” or “no” answer. “What did you eat for lunch?” or “who did you play with?”
- Engage in imaginative play that allows for create story-telling. Use babies or figures to act out imaginary stories. Play house or doctors or school and use the words associated with those areas.
- When you do the shopping, use descriptive language to describe the environment around you. Speak about what’s on your shopping list. Ask your child to bring you items and describe the things they pick up. Speak about the measurements and the packaging.
- Get your little one involved in cooking. Get them to describe the ingredients and the process of measuring, pouring, scooping and mixing. Use lots of adjectives such as sticky, sloppy or crunchy.
- Encourage your child to get involved with cleaning tasks, asking them to repeat and learn new words. Ask them to help with the less everyday tasks to build their vocabulary, for instance skirting boards. Ask your child to repeat what you say.
- Play with rhymes and songs, identifying rhyming words and reflecting on various lyrics or meanings. Spot things while you’re out running errands and discuss words that rhyme with the things you’ve spotted.
- If you’ve got visitors round, encourage your child to tell jokes or stories. Get your guests to ask questions. This will help them learn new words and expand their understanding of how to story tell and build suspense.
- Read together and act out stories. Role play different characters and change it up. Speak about what they’re wearing and say the words. Describe the events going on around you in your imaginary roles.
While this is a short list, building language skills is easier than you might think and can be incorporated into any of your day-to-day activities, describing the details and introducing more complex language over time.
Looking for more ways to develop your child’s language? Here are 99 ways to help your child communicate.