You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Children develop strong speech and language skills through interactions with caring, loving, and attentive parents and caregivers starting at birth.
Research shows that simple changes in how you talk, read, and play with your child can help develop speech and language skills. Watch this great video by The Hanen Centre: You are the key to your child’s first words.
Language strategies for parents to use during daily routines, play, and reading:
Early Language Stimulation Strategies for Parents and Caregivers
This information is reprinted, with permission, from Surrey Place.
These strategies can be downloaded as printable handouts..
Face to face
Follow your child’s lead
Join in and play
Use simple languge
Repeat important words
Give a reason to communicate and wait
Comment rather than asking questions
Say what you think your child means
Sharing a book
Imitate and add
Talking and reading tips
Find many short videos and e-learning modules to learn fun talking and reading tips.
Videos and E-learning
- Sounds and Gestures: Building blocks for your child’s first words
- Conversations pave the way for first words
- Playing with Language: Part 1
- Playing with Language: Part 2
- Playing with Language: Part 3
- StoryTalk One: Ten Steps to Child Literacy
- StoryTalk Two: The Zookeeper’s Sleepers
- Being the Bridge: Building Language While You Wait
(Webinar for parents of newborn children to 2 ½ years of age)
- The Power of Play: Creating Opportunities for Speech & Language Development
(Webinar for parents of preschoolers ages 2 ½ to 4)
- E-learning modules from First Words Preschool Speech and language Program (Ottawa region)
- Module 1: Act early. Know the signs
- Module 2: What is First Words?
- Module 3: Ages and Stages: Communication Development from Birth to 48 Months
- Module 4: Strategies to Help Communication Grow
- Module 5: Books, Language and Literacy
- Module 6: Learning More than One Language
- Module 7: The impact of screen time on language development
- Module 8: Child and Youth Screen Time presentation by Dr. Michael Cheng, Child Psychiatrist
Communicating with babies, toddlers and preschoolers
Communicating with babies
In the first year of life, babies learn from watching your face and listening to your voice. The more you talk, sing, play, and read with them, the more sounds and words they will learn.
Tips for helping your baby develop speech and language skills:
- Speak to your baby face-to-face so they can watch your face and interact with you more easily.
- Make silly sounds with your baby.
- Follow you baby’s lead and repeat sounds and babble.
- Sing and talk throughout daily routines.
- Name familiar objects.
- Avoid the use of screen time.
- Read brightly coloured books with pictures your baby sees every day (e.g., food, animals, and clothing).
Young children develop speech, language, and literacy skills through fun and caring interactions with adults and caregivers. Learning to talk can be a frustrating time for toddlers as they move from using gestures, like pointing, to sounds and words. Try to wait patiently when toddlers try saying new words, sounds, or gestures to communicate their message.
Tips for helping your toddler develop speech and language skills:
- Avoid the use of screen time.
- Wait patiently for your child to communicate.
- Slow down and listen.
- Encourage play with other children.
- Give simple directions.
- Use real words, not baby talk.
- Add gestures or signs to help emphasize words.
- Share reading time and talk about the pictures.
- Use new and interesting words and explain what the words mean.
When children are between three and five years of age, they go through tremendous growth and change in their speech and language skills. They learn about the world around them and how to communicate with adults and other children.
Tips for helping your preschooler develop speech and language skills:
- Act as a tour guide by describing what is happening throughout the day.
- Have fun telling stories about past events or re-telling a favourite book.
- Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with yes or no. Try using how, why, and I wonder as open-ended starters.
- Make up rhymes and silly songs using familiar tunes to help your child learn new words.
- Read lots of books with new and interesting words. Explain what the new words mean and how to use them. Repeat these words often.
- Encourage your child to choose a book that interests them.
- Encourage your child to print or scribble.
- Choose books with large, clear print with words or phrases that are repeated. Point out print as you read.
- Model correct grammar (e.g., if your child says, he jump then you say, yes, he jumped).
- Give many opportunities for play with other children.
Limit screen time
Limit screen time with all children and avoid the use of screen time with very young children. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that children under two years of age have no screen time exposure to televisions, tablets, and smart phones. Children develop speech and language skills best through direct interactions with caring, loving, and attentive parents and caregivers.
Do you have concerns about other areas of your child’s development?
- Complete the Early Years Check In Tool to identify other needs or concerns you may have about your child, including social, emotional, language, movement, thinking, and learning skills.
- Visit the Play & Learn site to find activities to do with your child to help them develop their skills.
- Sign up for the My Growing Child email newsletters to receive activities you can do with our child at home to help them improve their skills.
If you have identified other developmental concerns, the SmartStart Hub can help you with next steps.
Call 613-544-3400, ext. 2078 or visit our SmartStart Hub page for more information.
To make a referral to Early Expressions Preschool Speech and Language program, complete our online referral form.
If you are unsure if a referral is needed, please review Communication Milestones for your child’s age.
Referrals can also be made by phone at 613-544-3400 ext 3175 press 3 (toll free 1-855-544-3400 ext 3175 and press 3).
Some content reprinted with the permission of KFL&A Public Health.