Talk to Me! 6 Ways to Promote Communication and Language

Having trouble getting your child to communicate?  The following 6 strategies will help facilitate communication and language in your baby or toddler. The main premise for these is two fold – first tempt, then wait. These strategies take some patience, both from you and your child, but most always stimulate communication, whether it be gestures, signs, words, or simple phrases. Try some of these “communication temptations” at home – and feel free to be creative!

Communication Temptations:

  1. Food: Grab one of your child’s favorite snacks and offer him a few pieces, then wait for your child to indicate he wants more. At the most basic level of communication, you can model a simple gesture, such as a point, to indicate “more.” If your child is already pointing, model a sign, word, or even simple phrase for your child to imitate. If he still grunts or points, do a hand-over-hand sign for “more.” Be sure to give him his reward right away so he makes a communication connection!
  2. Clear Rubbermaids: Store games or activities with a lot of pieces (think train set, cars, Mr. Potato Head) in a clear Rubbermaid container with a lid. Offer your child one piece and then close the box. When he can’t open up the box, model a sign, word, or simple phrase. “Open” and “more” are two functional words that work great in these situations. Don’t forget to label the items as you take them out to promote even more language learning. And of course, do this one piece at a time to increase repetitions of new signs and phrases.
  3. Wind-up Toys: These magical little guys will not only keep your child entertained, they’re also hard to wind up so he will definitely be asking for help! Wind it up, let it go and then wait for your child to request help. Model simple signs or words such as “more,” “help” or even the name of the object.
  4. Bubbles: Blow some bubbles and then, you guessed it, wait! When your child reaches for the bubble container, grunts, or points; model a gesture, simple sign, or word. You can also model reduplicated syllables like, “buh buh buh” if your child is not at the word level yet!
  5. Markers and Paper: Dot markers work great for this, but regular old Crayolas will do the trick as well! While drawing or coloring with your little one, pair sounds, syllables or environmental noises with your scribbles. For example, while making quick dots, model “da, da, da.”  Draw a squiggle while making an exaggerated “sssss” or a zig zag while modeling “ma, ma, ma.” Be creative! Your art doesn’t have to match your sounds, just pair it up with a simple syllable and have fun!
  6. Ball: “Ready, set……GO!” A simple turn-taking game, like rolling a ball back-and-forth, is a quick and easy way to promote language. Practice using the phrase “Ready, set, go!” while playing with your child. Then, say, “Ready, set….” and wait for the “go!” from your child. You can also prompt simple words such as, “ball” and “me” or simple phrases such as, “my turn.”

These “communication temptations” are a simple and fun way to teach your child the power of communication. Make sure to provide the “reward” quickly, so your child can easily make a connection between his action – whether it’s a gesture, sign, or word – and getting what he wants by using communication. These strategies are a great way to start teaching your child about communication, as well as to promote further language development.  Click here to read even more about communication temptations.