Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sweet Talker

There's nothing cuter than a preschooler developing chatter. that much-anticipated first word gradually develops into a wonderful stream of funny statements.But while all these new words are a source of fascination, parents often worry about whether their child's speech is developing properly. Don't worry! Language develops differently for each child. Some are chatting almost from the womb and some are naturally quieter. Just look at adults and how varied we are in our speech habits. We underestimate how much there is for our kids to learn. Vocabulary is only one of the many skills they have to master before they can have a good conversation. Just keep talking and make it fun. There are many activities you can do to boost your child's language.

  1. Listening Walk - Take a walk and talk about sounds you hear. try making the sounds together. Initially it may help to put your hand behind your ear to emphasise to your child that you're listening.
  2. Adventure Word Search - Get out and about and introduce new vocabulary to your child. The zoo. museum, beach, forest walk, aquarium are great places. When you get home read books on the same topics or make story books using photos from your trip to reinforce new words.
  3. Simple Story Time - Try reading at, or slightly above, your child's speaking level. If she is saying two-word sentences, simplify the text and use two to three-worded sentences.
  4. Talk, talk, talk - Children understand many more words than they can actually say, so to increase their vocabulary they need to hear you using new words. Talk about activities as you do them with your child.
  5. Baby Sign - People naturally use gestures, facial expressions and body language to communicate from a very early age. Babies and toddlers between six and 30 months and children with language delays benefit most from baby sign. For further information on baby Signing visit
  6. In The Bag - Put a few familiar items into a bag. Keep the items hidden and describe what one of them looks like and feels like. For example say, "It's very fluffy." Ask your child to guess what it is. As his vocabulary grows he can have a turn at describing too.
  7. Fun With Sounds - Speech sounds develop over the first eight years of your child's life. Have fun with the sounds she is developing and practise new ones through games. Play with cars and make loud "mmmmmmm" driving sound.
  8. Where Is It? - Whether hiding people or toys, talk as you look for them and introduce concepts such as under, in ,near, and behind. "Is Teddy under the bed? No! Is he in the box. Yes!"Don't worry if only you are talking your baby will absorb it all.
  9. Topic Of The Week - Pick words or a concept for the week. Topics might be animals, polite words (please and thanks) or a single word for less verbal babies. Use the words as much as possible, collect topic-related objects, read books and play games. The aim is to repeat!
  10. Sleepy Talk Time - Just before bed have a sleepy talk time where you quietly discuss the day with your child and what you might do tomorrow. This is a lovely time to spend some one-to-one time with your child and relax them before sleep.

Language Development does not always progress smoothly. It is common for children to have problems in some areas. Understanding language, making age-appropriate speech sounds, stuttering, and refusing to speak are some areas children may need help with. Other difficulties include sounding hoarse, nasal, too loud or quiet, or having an unusual-sounding voice. Getting your child's hearing checked is the first important step, as many children have language difficulties because of undiagnosed hearing problems. Just remember if you have any concerns about your child's language development take them to see your GP . The earlier problems are assessed and dealt with, the better it will be for your child.

Much more than words is a document outlining language development, areas of difficulty, activities to use with children and steps to referral. This is a great read put together by the New Zealand Government.

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