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Thursday, 14 September 2000

What Activities Can I Do with My Child to Encourage Her Language Development?

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson

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This series was written in consultation with Rachel Bromberg, MACCSLP - Speech and Language Therapist

The activities below are great learning approaches and activities for all children and are especially important for children who are having language difficulties.

AGES 0-3

1. Speak to your child in "SIMPLE" sentences.
DO NOT say: "Kimmy, it's time to go to the park. We have to go now because I have to go to work soon and in any case the park is on the way to the store and I have to pick up some milk."
DO say: "Kimmy, let's go (to the) park. We'll play. (You can even skip "to the" for a very young child or a child with language difficulties.)

Point out the names of objects and pictures to your child. When you are walking in the street say, "Look, car, bus, grass, tree, store, etc.." Point at the object or picture as you are saying it. DO NOT put any pressure on him to repeat the word and do not "overdo" it by not letting him have time to think as you rattle off words. When he starts saying words spontaneously (ages one to two) you can ask him, "What's that?" but if he has any trouble answering, fill in the answer for him. If he gives the correct answer, then give him a big hug and lots of encouragement. Once again, try and make him feel that this is a game between the two of you, not a "test."


You can't read too many books to your child. Starting at age six months you can pick up simple board books and label the pictures you see. Choose books that are appropriate for your child's age. For a list of suggested books check out Books to Grow On. Point to pictures of objects and when he is a bit older (one and a half and above) you can try encouraging him to point on his own or move his hands to help him point to the picture. For more tips on reading with your young child, you can look at Reading With Young Children.

Sing simple, child-friendly songs with your child on a regular basis. Add hand motions to the songs you sing. If you don't know any hand motions, use your imagination. Make sure you use the same gestures each time. You will see that your child will probably start imitating these hand motions even before she begins to sing the words. Sing your favorite songs on a regular basis. You may get tired of them, your child will not.


Once your child starts using gestures or speaking (usually between ages one and two), encourage him to ask for things or point to items he wants. If you always hand a child everything he wants, without his asking, then he may never see any reason to make the effort to talk. (Especially true for children who have language difficulties.)

AGES 3 - 6

The activities below were suggested by Rachel Bromberg, MACCSLP - Speech and Language Therapist


1. Discuss bedtime stories. Interrupt story reading with questions such as "What do you think will happen now?"

2. Tell a short story, stop at an exciting part and ask your child to finish the story.

3. Encourage your child to tell what her experiences have been during the day.

4. Play a game of twenty questions about your child's day. (e.g. Say to her: "I am thinking of ..." and let her guess which activity you are thinking of, giving her hints along the way until she guesses correctly.)

5. Have your child make up a story about pictures shown to her. You can see two specific ways of doing this type of activity with your child, by looking at Writing Stories and Writing Sequence Stories in our arts and crafts section.

6. Show your child pictures from a book or magazine. Ask questions about the relationship between the objects. (e.g. on, under, in, next to, etc..) For example, try asking, "Where is the dog?" "Is the dog next to the bed?" " Under the bed?"

7. Teach opposites. Talk about things that feel alike, look alike and smell alike. Also talk about how things are different. (big vs. small, soft vs. hard)

8. Have your child describe objects. Have her look at something and then hide it. Ask her to describe it in as many ways as she can.

9. Give your child three letters to repeat. Then gradually increase the number of letters until she cannot repeat them anymore. Use number and word sequencing as well.

10. Play a guessing game. Describe an object without naming it and have your child guess the name of the object. (i.e. It's round, red, you eat it.... it's an apple)

Record your child's comments on a tape recorder as you do these activities. Then play it back to him. (If you use one tape over a significant period of time, this is another great way to literally "hear" how your child's language develops.)

Early Childhood Speech and Language Development

Every child is unique and comes with a built-in set of strengths and weaknesses. One of our goals as parents is to try and help our children use their strengths to their advantage and to give them the tools to succeed also in areas of weakness. For some children, speech and language skills develop easily and without extra intervention. For others, a bit of additional attention may be necessary to help them to reach their potential. While some children may need professional help, others simply need us, as parents, to give them a bit of extra attention in a specific area.

We hope that reading this series has helped you to better understand your child and his developmental strengths and weaknesses in the area of speech and language development.

Of course, no series can deal with the many aspects and issues involved in the area of early childhood language development. If you would like to read more about this issue, you can check out the following web sites:

1. http://www.asha.org/ - American Speech Language Hearing Ass.
This organization is also a great resource to help you in a search for a good speech and language therapist. They have a toll-free hotline:1-800-638-8255.

2. http://www.hsdc.org/commupdt.htm - Hearing Speech Deafness Center

Last modified on Thursday, 04 April 2013 15:14
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Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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