The best way to encourage your child’s speech and language development is to talk with her frequently and naturally.
1) Talk to your baby and treat her as a talker, beginning in her first year. Assume she is talking back to you when she makes sounds and babbles, and even when she is just paying attention to you. When you finish talking, give her a turn and wait for her to respond – she will! When she starts babbling, babble back with similar sounds. You will probably find that she babbles back to you. This keeps the talking going and is great fun!
2) Respond to gestures and words. As your baby grows up and starts to use gestures and words, respond to his attempts to communicate. For example, if your child shakes his head, treat that behaviors if he is saying ‘no’. If he points to a toy, respond as if your child is saying, ‘Can I have that?’ or ‘I like that’.
3) Talk about what is happening. Talk to your baby even if she doesn’t understand – she soon will. Talk about things that make sense to her, but at the same time remember to use lots of different words. As your baby becomes a toddler, continue to talk to her – tell her the things that you are doing, and talk about the things that she is doing.
4) Introduce new words. It is important for children to be continually exposed to lots of different words in lots of different contexts. This helps them learn the meaning and function of words in their world.
5) Share books with your baby and continue to as he grows. Talk about the pictures. Use a variety of books, and link what is in the book to what is happening in your child’s life. Books with interesting pictures are a great focus for talking. Your local library is a great source of new books to keep things fresh.
6) Follow your child’s lead in conversations. If she initiates a conversation through talking, gesture or behavior respond to it, making sure you stick to the topic your child started.
7) Repeat and build on what your child says. For example, if he says, ‘Apple,’ you can say, ‘You want an apple. You want a red apple. I want a red apple too. Let’s have a red apple together’.From the time your child starts telling stories, encourage her to talk about things in the past and in the future.
At the end of the day, talk about plans for the next day – for example, making the weekly shopping list together or deciding what to take on a visit to grandma. Similarly, when you come home from a shared outing, talk about it.
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