All children develop speech and language skills at different ages and different speeds – that’s completely normal, and as parents it’s our job to support them in any way we can.
There are lots of small things you can do to help kids pick up new words, whether in their first language or another.
Photo by James Taylor
The key thing is to make each step as fun and engaging as possible. Here are our top five ways to making learning about language more fun:
- Find a way to start the conversation
When it comes to developing conversational skills, kids need something interesting to talk about more than anything else. Even the quietest little ones will get chatting once you hit on a topic they that grabs their attention! It’s just about finding out what they love and talking about it with them. Do they like the beach? Try asking them to describe different types of shells! Are they into tractors? Go to your local farm and name each one by colour.
- Mystery boxes
This is a fun – if sometimes messy – game for kids that’s great for helping to improve speech and language skills. Assemble a range of different household items and put each one in a box with a hole cut into the lid. Ask your kids to close their eyes and put their hand in a box. They will then have to use their language skills to describe the item in as much detail as possible – this is especially good for practicing the use of adjectives. To make it extra fun, let your children decorate the boxes with glitter and paint before you start. And don’t worry too much if it gets messy – you can easily find out how to remove paint stains from clothes here.
- Spend time with foreign language speakers
If you want to instill a love of different languages in kids, what you need is for them to spend time in the company of those who speak something other than English. Make this fun by finding a relative, baby-sitter or friend who enjoys playing with children, but will do so while talking in their mother tongue.
- Label household items
A good way to get your child used to language is to help them associate visual and audible cues. If they are struggling to name particular objects, label those items and ask your child to read the word on the label out loud every time they use it – this will help them develop their reading skills, too! It’s also a useful technique for helping them learn new languages: tag household items with their word in the new language and repeat it each time the item is used.
- Ask open questions
Sometimes the simplest things work the best. If a child isn’t much into talking, get them to be more chatty by asking open questions. These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. So rather, for example, than asking ‘Did you have fun at school?’ you could say ‘Tell me about something you did at school today.’
There are many things you can do to encourage your child to speak and enjoy language – both their own and new ones. Try out these different ideas and see which one works for your family.