Activities for Enhancing Language Skills

  1. Model Language. Take 10 minutes to play with your child each day and talk about what you are doing with the toys. (e.g., “The car is going up. Go car. The car goes under. I see a blue car. Where is the blue car?”)

  1. Throughout the day, talk about things that you do on a daily basis. (e.g., “I am washing the dishes. They are wet. I put the soap in the water. The water is hot. Now I am dying off the dishes. The plate is dry.”)

  1. Be repetitive while talking. Say the same thing multiple times during an activity. (e.g., I have a car. The car goes fast. The Car goes down. The car goes up.) Use a couple of words (word/concept you are desiring to teach your child) over and over – The more your child hears it, the more likely your child is to learn the word/concept.

  1. Make sure your child is looking at you. Eye contact is important. Encourage your child to look at you when you are modeling a word, so your child can see your mouth move. Also, encourage your child to look at you when he/she imitates, says a word, requests an object, etc. If your child does not look when asked, teach him to look by moving a toy your child is looking at in front of your eyes. Then, quickly move the toy behind your head, so your child looks at your eyes. Praise your child for looking into your eyes. (e.g., “Good job looking at me” or “I see you. I liked the way you looked at me”)

  1. Have your child talk/sign before you give him/her something. Put toys up out of reach, so your child needs to talk in order to get the toys. If your child points to a desired toy, say “What do you want? Do you want the ___(ball). You need to tell me. You need to say ball.” Have your child look at your mouth when you are telling him/her what to say. That way he/she will see what he/she should do with his/her mouth in order to make the sound. Always praise your child and give the desired item if he/she makes a good attempt at saying the word if he/she is unable to say the word clearly. If your child does not repeat at all have him/her sign “more” or “want.” This way you can help him/her ask for the desired item and learn what communication is.

  1. Have your child imitate words/phrases. Always have your child imitate at the point where he/she is just starting to have trouble imitating. (e.g., If your child can imitate a two word phrase “car go,” then try to have him/her imitate a simple three-word phrase “car go down.” If your child can imitate a two-syllable word “baby,” work on imitating three-syllable word/phrase “Lady bug.” Always end having him/her imitate something that he/she can imitate so it does not become frustrating for your child.

  1. Recast what your child says. (e.g., when your child says “car,” say back to him/her, “That’s right “blue car” or “car go” or “want car.”) You just add one word to what he/she said, so he/she hears a longer utterance.

  1. Ask questions. Ask him questions such as “What happened?” but make sure you give him the answer (i.e. “The car fell down”) if he does not answer the question. Count to 3 before you answer the question to give him time to think about the question and possibly answer the question before you answer the question.

  1. Talk about events that happened that day. (e.g., Did you enjoy going to the park? It looked like you had fun going down the slide. Did you have fun? What did you do at the park?) If your child is unable to talk about past events you can take pictures and use those as cues for your child. (e.g., Take a picture of your child going down the slide, swinging on the swing, playing in the sand. Show your child the pictures when asking him/her what he/she did that day. Ask, “What did we do today? Remember, we went to the park and played in the sand. Then what did we do” (show a picture of him/her going down the slide.) If he/she does not say something about the slide then you can say, “You went down the big slide.”)

  1. Read books about events/activities. Read a book about going somewhere (i.e. the beach, grocery store, doctor’s office) or doing something (i.e., making cookies, making pizza) and then pretend to do what the characters in the book did. For example, if you read a book about going to the doctor’s office, act out going to the doctor with your child. Have your child choose to be the doctor or the patient. Revert back to the story if your child does not seem to know how to act like a doctor (i.e., You can say “Remember how the doctor in the story checked his patient’s heart beat.”).

  1. Read to your child and talk about the pictures in the book (e.g., “Look, I see a dog. Do you see the dog? The dog is eating.”) During a storybook reading activity, an individual can ask a hierarchy of questions, which pertain to the story. Some examples by Westby (1994) include:

- Literal - Labeling (e.g., What is this?)

- Item Elaboration (e.g., What kind of animal is that?)

- Event Description (e.g., What happened? or What is ____ doing?)

- Inferential - Reason/Cause (e.g., Why is ____ doing that?)

- Reaction (e.g., How does ____ feel? or Isn’t that silly.)

- Real Word Relevance (e.g., Remember when we went camping?)

- Predictions (e.g., What do you think will happen next?)

(It is important to ensure your child’s comprehension of each question before progressing to the next level of the hierarchy)

  1. Correct your child by modeling the word/sentence correctly. If you hear your child using incorrect grammar, tell him/her how to say it correctly without drawing attention to his/her mistake. (e.g., if your child says, “I lost three tooths already.” You can reply, “Wow, that is neat that you lost three teeth. You must be very excited to have lost three teeth already.”) You do not need to say, “No, it is teeth not tooth.” You want to encourage your child to talk and if your child gets negative feedback, he/she may not want to talk as much. By you modeling the correct way to use the word, your child will learn it correctly.

  1. Practice one- or two-step commands. Ask your child to perform simple tasks. For example, say, “sit down.” If your child does not follow the command, walk them through it while saying the command (i.e., move your child toward the chair and help him/her sit while saying “Sit down. Good job sitting down.”) When your child follows one-step commands, ask your child to do two things at a time. For example, say, “pick up your plate and put it in the sink.” If he/she is unable to complete both parts of the command walk your child through the commands. (i.e., Tell him/her to pick up his/her plate (wait for your child to pick it up) then tell him/her to put it in the sink. After the plate is in the sink you can say, “Yeah, you picked up your plate and put it in the sink.”)

  1. Model the skills that your child should be able to do by a certain age. Please refer to the list of skills under language skills for a list of skills your child should be doing by a certain age. For example, if your child should be able to point to body parts, model pointing to body parts with your child. You can say, “I’m going to get your nose. I got it” as you point to his/her nose).