Children learn so much in the first five years! Language is one of the skills that parents are the most eager to see their children develop because it’s a huge stepping stone for interactions. It’s always amazing to see babies learn to babble and then say their first words but many parents don’t quite know how to support their children beyond the first words.

Even though all kids will develop language at their own pace, there are a few simple tricks that can be really beneficial to help move 18-month-old to 3-year-old toddlers a step further a little quicker.  These tricks are especially effective with typically developing children. They can also help with children with language difficulties. However, if you have any concerns, you should also make sure to book an appointment with a speech-language pathologist who can not only give you more precise recommendations but also assess your child’s specific language development to target their difficulties and offer therapy.

Tip 1:  Kids learn about what they like

All parents know that what we’d like children to be interested in can be vastly different from what they are actually interested in. I’m looking at you, nephew who played with the box of your brand new train set for a whole day, instead of playing with the train itself. When it comes to language, if you want your child to really learn, understand, and use words, you really have to go with their interests. It’s ok if they learn the words ‘garbage truck’ before they can name all their body parts. If they’re interested in the garbage truck, you can teach them a million words or short sentences that they are a more likely to remember and use, and eventually reuse in other contexts : ‘big truck’, ‘green truck’, ‘I see a garbage truck’, ‘the garbage truck is gone’, ‘the truck is slow’, etc.

Tip 2: +1 Rule

This is one of the best rules in my opinion. So often, we bombard kids with words. We say ‘Look Timmy, this is a cow! The cow goes ‘moo’. Most cows are white and have black spots. They give milk, and we can make cheese and yogurt with their milk’. Now this is acceptable if you want to teach facts, which is obviously important but… It’s not so good if you want to model sentences your child can actually use. Ideally, what you want is to add 1 or maybe 2 words to whatever your child says because that’s actually what’s accessible to them. If your child says ‘Cow’, you can simply say ‘Big cow’ or ‘Cow says moo’ or ‘Cow eats grass’.

Tip 3: Don’t interrogate!

Even with the best intentions, we spend a lot of time questioning our children. Do you want to play with the airplane? Should the little people get in the airplane? Is this the pilot? Where does the airplane go? Basically, what you need to keep in mind is that most interactions with peers are filled with affirmative or negative sentences and comments, not questions. So our goal should be to model this type of question. Surprisingly, what happens is that most children feel less pressure to speak and end up interacting more freely and spontaneously.

These simple tips are very easy to implement in your daily activities. No need for fancy materials or set up. Try them out and have fun!  If you’re interested, I can do a follow-up with article with more tips and tricks!




Photo credit:
Photo by li tzuni on Unsplash
Photo by Ben White on Unslash


This post currently has 7 responses.

  • Peggy Nunn

    These are great points. I have not thought of number 3. I will have to keep these in mind.

    • Rachel

      We all fall into the questioning trap! Try and catch yourself in time so you can reformulate your idea as a statement. 🙂

  • Peggy Nunn

    These are good points. I talked to my children about everything. Pointing out things and explaining them. They seemed interested, so I just talked like I was talking to another adult. The baby talked late but when he started, he talked in almost full sentences. He listened… he just waited on him on timeline.

    • Rachel

      All kids learn at their own pace. I’m sure your kids enjoyed listening to you talking about what was around them and eventually join in with you.

  • ellen beck

    Great tips! So often parents (and others) overwhelm a child. They dont mean to, but simple is always best. I totally agree with what they are interested in. I know my nephew knew all these wild dinosaur names before he could say much else. Why? He loved dinosaurs. He knew some I had no clue what they were!

  • Sarah L

    Great tips. Another one is reading aloud to your kids from the beginning. There may not be any cows where you live but they live in the books. Then have your kids tell YOU the story in their own words.

  • Lauryn R

    These are very good tips, thank you so much for sharing! I homeschool my kids, and I feel like I did some of these things with my oldest without realizing it. She learns at her own pace and does not deal well at all with “interrogating” or being overwhelmed by lessons. Her younger siblings are different, as are all kids. I find it really interesting the way that each kid has their own interests, even at such a young age.

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