We spend a lot of time on the go and outside in July, but parents can still encourage more words during these activities. The University of Kansas developed a great resource: Strategies for Promoting Communication and Language of Infants and Toddlers. Specific examples of how to encourage language are provided. Two that can be used this summer with your child:
Commenting and labeling
When your child is doing something, talk about their actions or the objects they are playing with. Their brain is already focused on these and you are just providing the language to go with it. If your child is playing with sand, you might say : “You’re pouring the sand in the bowl,” or “Deandra has filled her bowl with sand,” or “The sand feels cool on my fingers.” When your child is moving, comment: “You’re climbing so high,” or “You can run so fast.”
Asking open ended questions
Often parents ask yes/no questions, “Do you want to play ball?”, requiring the child to only respond “yes” or “no”. To try and get the child to say more, we may follow up with “say ball”. This can frustrate the child, he/she already indicated they want to play with the ball and we are asking them to tell us again! Rather, ask open ended questions, such as what, who, where, how, and why. Once we know the child wants to play with the ball, ask “Which color ball?”, “Where should we throw it?”, “Who’s going to throw it first?”, “How high can you throw the ball?”, “What will happen if we throw the ball in the water?” Younger children may not initially answer these more complex questions, wait then model the answer or break the question down more, using a choice…”red or blue ball?” or have them fill in the word, “Where should we throw the ball? Into the….”).