Having the ability to effectively communicate, supports us to build meaningful relationships, express our needs and wants, learn and so much more.
Did you know that 2 to 3 kids per primary school class have a developmental language disorder? It is critical that as parents, we support our children as their speech and language develops to ensure they develop good communication skills as they grow.
We have teamed up with Noala who are on a mission to make speech and language therapy mainstream and accessible to all, to bring you top tips to help build your child’s communication skills as they develop during those early years.
Tips to Foster Your Child’s Communication Skills
How do I Know my Child’s Communication Skills are on Track?
No one knows your child better than you do. The first 3 years of your child’s development are the most important. Verbal and non-verbal engagement can highlight early signs of issues with speech and language skills. Speech and language signs that are most commonly seen through play and interaction are:
- Joint attention is your child’s ability to focus on and play with or use an object with you or another.
- Utilising eye contact and facial expressions in response to sounds and gestures that others make or say.
- Playing and engaging with their daily routine.
- Babbling and vocalising as they grow.
Explore more on communication milestones here.
So how do you define if a child has a communication delay?
For expressive language, a delay can be seen in the ability to use words and phrases. Or that your child finds it difficult to understand or follow words or phrases.
Whereas a receptive language delay can be recognised in using words well, but being unable to put two words together to form short sentences or phrases.
When a child presents a communication delay, many aspects of their development may be affected unless it is addressed. People with a developmental language disorder are 6 times more likely to suffer from anxiety and 3 times more likely to have clinical depression. They are also at significant risk of struggling with reading, spelling and mathematics.
Building Blocks for Speech and Language to Encourage Communication
If you are working towards building your child’s language skills, it is important to provide a high number of modelling opportunities – this means teaching them to understand words, before they can say them with their correct meanings.
It is important for your child to use language repetitively, but also in the right context. You can encourage them through the following talking tips.
#1. Important People
Important people are those that your child is most familiar with during their early years. These can include names of family members, friends, teachers and your pets at home.
Encourage your child to learn and say their names by repeating them often and pointing to the person/pet as you say them so they become familiar with who each one is.
#2. Early Social Words
You should encourage your child to learn and use early social words, such as
- Thank you
When teaching them social words, it’s important to use clear facial expressions and body language to support the words meaning. For example, waving for “bye-bye”. This makes it more fun for the child, but also teaches them the meanings of these words too.
#3. Food and Drink Words
Food and drink words are a great way to encourage your child’s communication. They are short words that your child will be familiar with, such as “apple, banana, biscuit, water, milk, drink, food, bread, and yummy”.
Eventually over time, these single words, can be used to encourage sentence starters. For example, “I want… (wait for your child to see if they can express their choice), if not expressed, you can repeat the preferred food or drink word back to your child.
Day to day as you provide choices for food and drink, encourage your child to point to their preferred option. When they point or look at the preferred item, repeat their choice e.g. ‘I want a banana’.
This repetition will help them learn to ask for what they want and in the creation of short sentences.
#4. Body Parts
These early words can include “ears, eyes, teeth, nose, mouth, hair, hand, fingers, foot, toes and tummy”.
You can incorporate these words when playing with your child. Saying the names of different body parts and asking them to point them out is a great way to teach them these words early on.
During bath time, you could give them their doll/dinosaur, with a sponge, tell your child – “wash their tummy”. Praise and encourage your child when they are doing the actions.
Singing nursery rhymes such as ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ is another fun way to encourage them to learn. Remember to point to each body part as you sing it. Pause on a few occasions to see if your child fills in the gap and labels the body part correctly.
#5. Everyday Words
Everyday words can include familiar words for clothing, animals and transport. These categories can include early words such as;
- Shoes, socks, pants, shirt, boots, hat and coat.
- Dog, cat, horse, sheep, cow, elephant, monkey, pig, tiger, snake, bee and bird.
- Bus, boat, bike, aeroplane, truck, car and train.
You can incorporate these words into everyday tasks such as sorting your laundry or getting dressed. Comment and talk about what you’re holding. For example, “is it a sock or a hat” or “Mummy is wearing a top, you are wearing a… vest” etc.
While out and about, talk about the animals you see or the vehicles that are going past on your walk. As your child becomes more familiar with these words, encourage them to say them when they see these things too.
#6. Household Objects
Household objects offer the perfect learning opportunity. These single words can include;
Start by pointing to different objects and repeating their names. Move on to saying the name of an object and asking your child to point it out. While talking to your child, if they don’t respond to your prompts, say the response you were expecting. For example, “oh no, you need a spoon… here is a spoon”.
Once they are using words, encourage them to ask for each item or repeat the name as you point to it.
#7. Action Words
Repeating action words before you do the action with your child encourages them to learn those words and as they begin to speak, it provides them the opportunity to tell you what is happening.
For example, you can say “go” before you kick or roll a ball to your child or “go” before you push your child on the swing.
Use words such as fall (down), in, on, go, gone, more, finish, look, open, close, push, turn (on/off), fly, fix, eat, drink, wash, brush, run, sit and cry, to get them understanding what each action is.
How Noala Can Help
Noala is on a mission to make speech and language mainstream. Their platform offers your family instant access to a certified speech professional, guiding you through a tailored clinically backed, parent-led Speech and Language Therapy coaching program to help your child reach their set targets.
The first program is built for developmental language, motivating your child to say and understand their first words and sentences.
If you’re interested, you can sign up for free, accessing your first coaching video, all about food. You’ll be able to book a call to chat to your designated expert speech professional for guidance, feedback and support your child’s progress and questions you may have.