It’s amazing how quickly little ones can progress in their language development. While there are predictable patterns of development that your baby is expected to go through, there are plenty of things you can do as a parent or caregiver to support their language development!
Early language stimulation techniques are something we love to recommend and share with families, as they’re easy to implement without adding more to do in your day and can make a big difference. Keep on reading to discover some simple techniques that you can use to help your little one with their language development.
What is the Difference Between Language and Speech?
Before we start exploring language stimulation techniques, let’s get clear on the difference between language and speech. Speech refers to the way in which we say words; articulating each speech sound in a way that makes sure we can be understood by others whether we are standing right next to them or shouting across a park while playing a game with friends.
Language on the other hand is all about conveying and understanding meaning. Idioms like ‘on the other hand’ can be difficult for those learning English to understand because it requires an intimate knowledge and understanding of how we use the English language. When we struggle to comprehend the meaning of language, it can be difficult to interact with loved ones and socialise because we cannot understand everything they are saying to us. If you’d like to learn more about this before discovering early language stimulation techniques, read our helpful blog post here.
What is Early Language Stimulation?
Early Language Stimulation refers to a range of techniques that parents, caregivers, and professionals like Speech Pathologists can use to encourage a child to use language. Most of the Early Language Stimulation techniques are easy to implement in everyday life, but you may need to practice them a few times before they come naturally to you.
These techniques can often be incorporated into daily activities like common everyday routines (bathtime, mealtimes) as well as in spontaneous play sessions with your little one.
What Early Milestones Indicate Speech and Language Development?
For parents and caregivers alike, it can be helpful to have an idea of the milestones you should expect to see your little one reach as they grow. We have some helpful printable milestone charts here that you can download to keep track of what your little one is achieving.
To get started, here are some early development milestones that you should expect to see your little one reaching in their first 24 months of life:
- Cooing and gurgling around 4 months old
- Babbling with the same sound (e.g. ba-ba-ba) around 6-7 months old
- Babbling with varied sounds (e.g. bagadada) around 9 months old
- First words begin emerging around 12 months old
- At least 50 single words by 24 months
- Simple word combinations (e.g. Daddy go, more milk) around 24 months
3 Early Language Stimulation Techniques to Try With Your Child:
Read Language-Rich Picture Books Together
One of the first techniques you can use at home (that you may already be doing!) involves reading books with your little one. At this young age, your little one will be focused on listening to you as you read through the book and absorbing the words, colours, and pictures contained in its pages. Make sure to choose a variety of books with bright colours and a rich vocabulary so that you can expose your child to lots of examples of language.
If you’re not sure what books to add to your at-home library, or to look for in your local library, check out our list of language-rich picture books here. When reading these books with your little one, don’t be afraid to get creative with it! Have fun and read the book using voices for different characters, and feel free to go off-script, jump around the book, and simply focus on pointing out the pictures in the book and talking about what’s happening in the pictures or naming things, like animals, for an extra dose of language stimulation. You definitely don’t need to stick to the story as it was written! You may find they engage with books longer if you go off script and focus on talking about what they’re looking at rather than reading the words and doing the pages in order.
Imitate Your Child’s Speech
This technique may feel funny at first but as we already mentioned, practice will make this feel more natural over time! When your little one is producing babbling sounds like ba-ba-ba or ga-da-ba-da you can repeat these back to your little one to help them practice turn taking. Turn taking is an important aspect of communication and is a great place to start with early language stimulation.
Over time, as your little one begins to say their first words, you can repeat these back to them and eventually begin to expand upon them. For example, if your little is saying “Mumma” you can repeat this back to them and say something like “Yes, I am Mumma” – “Mumma is going to make some food”. Expanding on the words your child is producing is a great way to take imitation to the next level and support early language stimulation.
Narrate Shared Activities
The last technique we’d like to share with you in this article is narration. Narration, as you might be able to guess, is all about narrating the actions your child is taking. Think of it as being their own personal commentator at the local game, except you and your child are the players and wherever you are is the field. They might be playing, they might be eating, they might be splashing in the bath tub. Talk about what they’re doing and don’t be afraid to repeat yourself many times and in different ways to increase their exposure to the vocabulary you are using. Again, it will probably feel strange at first to be narrating what your child is doing, or even what you are doing with your child, but this extra exposure to verbal language is going to go a long way in stimulating language development.
To learn more about narration and other language stimulation techniques, take a look at our other article on helping your child learn to talk.
How To Use Early Language Stimulation Techniques at Home
Early language stimulation techniques can be used at home in a variety of situations. For parents and caregivers, we recommend that language stimulation techniques be incorporated into everyday routines or activities rather than trying to find extra time in your already busy days. By incorporating these strategies into existing routines, it can minimise the impact on day-to-day life and provide a more natural setting for language stimulation to occur.
Everyday Routines for Early Language Stimulation
- Making / eating meals
- Driving to kindy / school
- Grocery shopping
For more examples of the types of routines that would be suitable for language stimulation, and how to get started, take a look at our helpful article on incorporating practice into everyday routines.
We hope you’ve found this guide to early language stimulation helpful! If your little one is aged 18-32 months and isn’t talking as much as you’d expect, and you’d like to learn more language stimulation techniques alongside other parents and caregivers, join us at our next TalkEase group therapy program. Find out more about TalkEase here!
If you have tried language stimulation techniques and are still concerned that your little one isn’t progressing as expected, we would encourage you to seek out the support of a Speech Pathologist in your area. You can use the Speech Pathology Australia Directory to find a clinic near you.