Developing Speech and Language Skills: Initial Stages

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Children tend to develop their speech and language skills at a very rapid rate between the ages of 12 months and 3 years of age. By the time they are 12 months old, they have already gone through the stages of babbling and imitating a variety of sounds and are now beginning to say a few single words. They may imitate the words that they hear and will start requesting for the things that they want. 

There are several ways you can assist with your little one’s speech and language development.

Where do we start?

How can we help our children to learn new vocabulary or request for items they need or desire? 

1.     Use “self talk” or “parallel talk”.

  • Throughout the day, talk about what you and your child are doing.
  • Use “self-talk” to verbalize what you are doing (“I’m eating”, “I am putting on my coat”, “I’m washing my hands”, “All done”)
  • Use “parallel talk”to talk about what your child is doing (“You ‘re dancing”, “You are washing”, “You want more food).

By doing this, you are continuously exposing your child to new vocabulary so they can begin to understand word meanings as soon as possible through your demonstration and language use.

2.    Use full sentences initially to facilitate meaning, then, decrease your sentence length.

  • Keep talking. Babies need to hear words many times before they learn to use them on a consistent basis.
  • You can initially use a full sentence like “Let’s go in the car”, then pause and say “Go Car”. By doing this, you will be assisting your child with vocabulary and at the same time, they will begin to imitate your words or short sentences.

3.    To motivate your children to use speech, choose 10 items or actions that they love, and begin to have them try to imitate or request these items.

  • Children need to learn the purpose of speaking and the first motivator for that is to request or comment on something that they love or want. If your child loves dolls or cars, hold those items in your hand, say “doll” or “car” and wait a few seconds to see if they will try imitate those words. If they don’t imitate, keep trying. You can also have them use gestures for these items to make requests for what they want.

4.    Put items your child may want out of reach so that he/she has to ask for them.

  • When your children point to something they desire, ask what they want, then pause. If they point or reach again, say the name of the object and wait a bit for them to attempt to name the object before just handing it to them.
  • If they still do not say the name of the object, wait; say the name of the object again, and most likely they will make an attempt at a word or sound. At that time, say the name of the object or action again so that they are constantly hearing the word that is expected.

5.    Present choices

  • Say, “Do you want your car or the ball?” Then say “car or ball?” (Show both).

Pause and then give them a chance to respond with a word. If they do not respond, help them to gesture what they want just to reinforce using some kind of intent to communicate. Then, give them what they requested. With time, they will verbalize their choice.

6.    When singing songs, you can begin a song and then occasionally leave out the word you want your child to say.

  • If you sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, little ________”,occasionally pause before you get to the word “star” (once they know the song). They may begin to try to fill in the word that is missing. Use gestures while singing as this will facilitate speech.

Most importantly, spend lots of time with your child saying words, phrases and short sentences. Give them time to respond as well as time to initiate. They will soon learn how fun it is to communicate with their loved ones and friends.