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Developing your Child's Speech and Language

All children’s speech develops at different rates so don't be tempted to compare your child to others their age. Some children first start speaking at three or four years old so don't think that because they aren't speaking, they aren’t learning- they are! In fact they are absorbing everything they hear around them in conversation and dialogue. Therefore the environment is an important tool in developing early speech and language.

As a parent, you are in fact also a teacher, as your child will inevitably learn most of their behaviour and actions from you. To encourage your child to start talking try incorporating these simple tips into your everyday routines.

Carefully monitor what your child hears and what you say, as your child will repeat and absorb the language they hear around them. For more information see Language Acquisition Theories.

Keep your child healthy and try to ensure you encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle. This may not seem significant to a child’s speech, but if a child is in good health they are likely to learn more and respond to the language they hear in their environment.  A balanced diet with the correct nutrients and a range of foods will develop the muscles in your child’s mouth, essential for their speech and the ability to form words.

Always attend regular check ups with your child’s paediatrician, as this will ensure your child’s hearing is checked and any potential disabilities or problems are identified early.

Provide a rich stimulating environment for your baby or child. Decorate you child’s room with colourful educational posters and pictures to stimulate their interest in the world around them and provide a focus for conversation. Musical toys such as interactive educational keyboards and games are also beneficial.

Perhaps most essential is for a parent to read to their child. This is perhaps the most important way of developing your child’s language and auditory discrimination. Have a range of picture books and set aside time daily to share a favourite picture book with your child such as a story from the Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics.

Sing songs or play a  Counting Songs CD for your child perhaps when on long car journeys. This will develop your child’s language and vocabulary range but also their concentration and understanding of early number concepts. You may like to sing nursery rhymes with your child to develop their language and auditory discrimination . You’ll be amazed at how quickly your child picks up the words and learns the tune to each song! The Jolly Phonics Songs are also beneficial as they teach letter sounds in preparation for pre-school and reading development.

Talk to your child and always look at them when you are speaking to them or giving them instructions. Explain your reasons for doing things, such as when you are getting them ready for a bath or bed. Vary your tone of voice, use expression and body language to convey meaning.  Make sure your child understands your overall communication through gestures even though they may not fully understand the language.

Provide your child with opportunities to socialise with other children and family members. This will encourage them to communicate with others and become more confident in expressing themselves.

Attend a mother and toddler group at a local Children's Centre, playgroup or pre-school, as this provides an invaluable tool for developing social skills and also gives your child access to an environment rich in language. There are also lots of Rhyme time groups which often take place at local libraries. These will be very valuable in supporting early social skills and language acquisition. 

Remember developing your child’s listening and hearing is key to them being able to talk and use language. Develop this through stories and social opportunities.

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