What can I do to help my child talk more?
Create a language-rich environment by having conversations about what you see, what you are doing, what you are going to do, or what has already happened. For example, you may recall the events in your adventure to the zoo (e.g., Adult: “The zoo was so fun! We saw monkeys, lions, turtles, etc. The turtles were swimming…the monkeys were sleeping (insert sleep/snore noise). Then we ate lunch with grandma and she got you a big cookie! Yummy cookie…that was yummy. Grandma loves you. She gave you a BIG HUG! Then we picked up brother from school and we said, “Hi (brother’s name)!” Now, I have to make dinner. Yummy, let’s take out our food. Want to help mommy? I need help!” This is just an idea of the dialogue that can occur with your child during daily activities. To reinforce learning of vocabulary during daily activities, you can talk about the zoo again during dinner time. This way you are providing more repetitions of the vocabulary that your child was already exposed to. It is also an opportunity to connect again on a shared experience you recently had.
This is just an example of the conversational, yet simple language you can provide your child to create a language-rich environment. Studies have shown that the greater diversity of words and phrases a child is exposed to within the first years of life are correlated with increased linguistic and cognitive skills in preschool and elementary school. You can integrate conversations throughout your daily routines such as during mealtimes, in the car, at the grocery store, etc. During this time, it is beneficial to put away screens/tablets and be present in conversation.
During one-on-one engagement with your child, you can also use bite-sized language to encourage imitation. For example, if you are at the zoo, you may describe what you see using single words, sounds and short phrases (e.g., Adult: “Monkey! I see a monkey. Hi Monkey! Aww…baby monkey! There’s a…big monkey! Mommy monkey. Oou-oou-ah-ah! Monkey swing. Wow! Swing monkey! Monkey is climbing up, up, up! Swing-swing. Bye-bye monkeys”).
You can also use narration to talk about anything you do in your routines. This is a simple and easy strategy to expose your child to new vocabulary as well as repetitions of familiar words and phrases. For example, during your zoo outing, you can narrate what you are seeing/doing and also the steps to prepare for what’s next (e.g., Adult: “Whoa! Look at those big tigers! Rawr! Hi tiger. Let's go see the giraffes now. We have to walk. Walk, walk, walk. We are walking. Aww, that boy is hugging his mommy. Big hug…do you want a big hug too?