Staying One Step Ahead of your Child's Talking

Most of the activities on this site involve you talking to your child whilst you are playing. On the one hand any kind of talking you do will be helpful, so if you want to leave it at that then you will be helping your little one develop good communication skills just by playing and talking with them. On the other hand parents often say 'but I'm already playing and talking with my child, what else can I do?' The answer is to adjust what you are saying to match your child's language level. By staying just one step ahead of where they are you make the next step accessible for them. It works like this:

If you have a baby or child who is not saying any words: Often use single words with them e.g. 'cow' 'sheep' 'milk'. This will help tune their ears to the single words which they will start talking with. However, babies are also listening to the rhythm and patterns of sentences so don't just limit your talking to single words, do use phrases too.

If your child is using single words but not yet putting 2 words together: Use very short phrases e.g. 'the cow is eating', 'a tractor in a field' 'the sheep is sleeping'.

If your child is combining words into short phrases then expand on them: You might say: 'the cow is eating grass', 'that tractor is ploughing the field', 'the sheep is sleeping on the grass'

If your child is using sentences: You can either extend their sentences using words like 'and', 'because', 'so' or add what they are talking about. E.g if they say 'the sheep is sleeping on the grass' you could say 'yes he's sleeping on the grass because he is tired' or you could say 'yes all the sheep are sleeping, it must be their bedtime'.

So the next question which parents often ask is: 'Is this really necessary? It's hard work thinking about what I'm saying all the time and I just want to relax and enjoy playing with my child'. My answer to this is that if you are not concerned about your child's language development then it is fine to just play and talk with them in a way which is natural to you. If you are concerned that your child is not talking as you would expect then they might need things done a little bit differently to give them a boost, and this is a good place to start. I'd recommend trying it for 10 minutes a day to begin with so it doesn't take over your life, and as it becomes more natural to you try practising it for longer. 

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