I recently spoke to a group of moms with kiddos one year of age and under. As I wrote these tips down to talk about with them, I realized these are great tips to share with all of you as well! Communication can be such a complicated thing for many of us and our kiddos and as soon as we are concerned that something may be “off” we tend to shut down.
Instead of shutting down, I want to encourage you to ramp it up! How? Follow these tips to interact with your child to the best of your ability and expose them to as much language as possible on a daily basis. At least you will know you are doing everything in your power to help them at home while you wait for you next visit to see a doctor or specialist.
So what can you do at home?
- Always respond to your child! If your child gestures, coo’s, babbles, makes a sound or attempts to say a word, repeat it back or acknowledge it. What does this look like? A gesture may be when they put their arms out to be picked up and you pick them up, that is you responding. In this example you might even take it one step further to say, “want up?” before picking them up so they understand you know what they want. The more exposure they have to you responding will lead to them connecting the dots and understanding they need to communicate to get their needs met.
- Get down on their level and talk to your child. When you are talking to your child, get down in front of them, on their level so they know that you are there to speak to them. Even if they aren’t looking you in the face, you are letting them know I am here and I am speaking and listening to you. Note: they do NOT have to be looking at you to acknowledge your presence in their space (especially if eye contact is a challenge for them).
- Label and talk about everything you see during the day. As you go through your day, label every item you see so your child starts to see items and connect them with their labels. Even if they aren’t speaking verbally yet, they are learning from this! The research shows it takes about 80 exposures to a label of an item before it gets added to a child’s vocabulary so it’s okay to go through the day talking about and labeling everything in your path! As your child gets a little older you can start to talk about everything you are doing (e.g., “mommies playing cars”, “go car go!”, etc.)
- Introduce books and reading early! Reading is not always a preferred activity but if you start it young and build up to it just a bit more each day, you may eventually walk into the room and find your child turning the pages in a book all by themselves. When reading a book, make it engaging and interactive. Have your child pick out the book, open the book, point to a picture, turn the page and close the book. The more you have them doing, the more they will stick around to hear a little bit of the story! Reading skills are important and lead to other literacy skills so this is always a great one to start on today!
The more you interact with and talk to your child, the more they will hear and retain, regardless of how much they are or are not speaking. It is always a good idea to be more animated and excited about your interactions with your child if you have a hard time getting their attention in play or when reading a book. Let us know if you use these strategies and if you have any others that you have found to be a helpful part of your daily routine with your little sprout!