Adding Language to Interactions
Week 1: Add a Variety of Words Children learn language through interaction and new experiences. As children experience new things, parents can give them the language they need to describe the experience. It often comes naturally to say things like ‘look! There’s a puppy’ while out and about. This is great for teaching the names of things, but there are many other types of words your children need to learn. Action words and describing words are important too! For example, when talking about a puppy, don’t simply use names like tail, nose or dog. You can use describing words, ‘he’s a big, fluffy puppy’. Or talk about your feelings, ‘I’m excited that we have a new puppy, excited means really happy.’ You can teach your child new action words, by talking about actions specific to dogs, like digging or barking. Remember to have fun as you are talking and learning together.
Week 2: Highlight Your Language When introducing your child to a new word, there are four easy things you can do to help your child understand and learn the word. Take the word enormous. To help your child notice and understand this word in your sentences, use short grammatical sentences. For example ‘you built an enormous(tower’. Secondly, stress and emphasise a word to highlight it for your child. Use lots of animation in your voice when you say the word enormous. Speak slowly so your child has a chance to hear the word and how it’s pronounced, ‘it’s en-OR-mous!’. Show your child what the word means, point out other things that can be described as enormous. Have fun teaching your child exciting new words!
Week 3: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! Children need to hear new words over and over again before they can fully understand those words and begin to use them. So, when introducing a new word repeat the word lots of times. For example ‘that bag is heavy, it has the milk in it. Milk is heavy.’ Repeat the word again later in the day, ‘oh, these books are heavy!’, and throughout your week. The more often a child hears the word the more likely they are to use the word themselves. What word would you like to teach your child next?
Week 4: Describe What’s Happening Around You Children learn best when their learning is related to their immediate context. So, when you want to teach your child a new word, it’s best to use words related to what they’re interested in and focused on at that moment. Perhaps you’re baking cupcakes together, talk about what each ingredient is as you use it. Use specific vocabulary; avoid using words like ‘it’, ‘this’ and ‘that’. For example, if you’re talking about flour, avoid ‘flour next, put it in the bowl’. Use the target word (flour) each time so your child has more chances to hear and understand, ‘flour next, put the flour in the bowl’. Enjoy your time together and watch your child’s language grow.
Written by Bec Speech Pathologist Newcastle Speech Pathology