How to Encourage Your Child to Talk

Hearing a child’s first words is a thrilling moment for every parent and each subsequent language milestone is another memory to be cherished. Every child learns to talk along slightly different timelines. Some children need a little extra practice and encouragement to grasp more complex language skills.

To help your child on a language learning journey, try these fun activities:

  1. Motivate your child to talk about something they enjoy (a favorite food, close relative, special toy, etc.).
  2. Label feelings – if your child is reaching for food, say “you are hungry” or if they’re throwing a temper tantrum, say “you are mad.” That way, they’ll learn to associate their feelings with specific words and learn how to express those feelings in the future through words instead of screams.
  3. Model language – if your child needs help reaching a toy, prompt them to verbally ask for help by saying “I want the toy please” or “I need help please” rather than letting them use hand signals.
  4. Imitate your child – make the same sounds they do and mimic their behavior during play to encourage them to imitate you, too.
  5. Use descriptive words – instead of “it’s time to leave for school,” say “it’s time to put on our shoes, our coats, and grab our backpacks before we walk outside to the car.”
  6. Take a photograph or draw a picture of a different food or activity while verbally naming what is going on in the picture. Encourage your child to draw their own picture.
  7. Encourage social interaction through play – your child communicates and learns through play so find games they enjoy and play those games with them.
  8. Nonverbal communication lays a foundation for language – exaggerate your gestures, using both your body and voice (by pointing to an item you’re talking about it, for example) to encourage your child to use more verbal communication.
  9. Pause for a few seconds after a question and look at your child to allow a space for your child to talk, even if they don’t take it.
  10. Keep track of your child’s interests. Follow along with their play and narrate what your child is doing so they come to associate actions with words.
  11. Simplify your language. Keep your sentences as simple as possible when talking to your child to cut down on misunderstandings.
  12. Consider using assistive devices (there are apps!) if your child is non-verbal to allow for some form of communication and to foster speech development and a connection between words and pictures/actions.

If you are concerned about your child’s language development, one of our speech-language pathologists would be happy to talk with you.