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As children learn to speak, they need to expand their vocabulary. Children need to learn the meaning of new words and to able to use them appropriately. A lot of this work occurs naturally for a child. They learn through hearing adults (and older siblings) talk around and to them. However there are ways of communicating as a parent that are more likely to help children learn than others.
Increasing your child’s vocabulary
Let’s start by talking about what your child is interested in! If we try to talk to your child about doing the laundry – they won’t be interested or motivated to tune in to what you say! However you might see a different response when talking about dinosaurs, making fairies fly, and jumping around the house.
Use play time with your child to help their language. This can be challenging but also very rewarding. During this play you want to ensure you are playing with what your child wants to play with, and how they want to play with it. To illustrate, if they want to play with cars, great! If they want to make the cars fly like spaceships – great lets do that! Try not to insist that the cars drive on the road in the ‘proper’ way – let your child lead the way! From here we use the child’s natural language and expand on it.
If your child is able to speak – repeat what they say, and add to it! For example a child says “It’s a monkey” we can repeat this but add something new to build their vocabulary e.g. “Look it’s a big monkey! It’s a big silly monkey!” Don’t forget to speak in an animated way, emphasising the key words, slowing down your speech, and repeating yourself.
The 4 S’s of vocabulary building
Say Less- limit your what you say. Yes your child may understand you if you say “Look the blue car is going down to big slide and then let’s move this car under the big brown bridge!”. However, they cannot imitate this. Provide this information to your child in sections that they can try to imitate e.g. “the blue car goes down!”
Stress – emphasise the key words you want your child to learn! E.g. “The blue car goes down!”
Go Slow – Slow down your rate of speech!
Show – demonstrate what you are talking about – if you say “the blue car goes down” – make sure the blue car does go down the slide!
Repeat! Repeat! Repeat! Everything you say – say it more than once! Repetition is the key to your child listening and taking in what you are saying!
Remember – you are not going to be able to change your communication style overnight – it’s going to take time and practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t speak to your child in this way every minute of the day. Set aside time to practice each time and focus on your communication.
Consulting a speech pathologist may also be helpful if you’re feeling worried about your child’s language development. Please contact reception for more information about the speech pathology service we provide on 9274 7062.
Strategies adapted from The Hannen Centre.