Parents of young children are always asking me, “How do I make my child talk?” Well, there is no way to “make” a child speak, but we can use techniques to keep a child interested and motivated so he/she wants to try to speak. The most important thing to remember is that a young child’s job is to play and learn. If a child feels like he is being tested or commanded to speak, chances are he never will. Keeping playtime fun will naturally encourage your child to stay engaged and communicate with you. Try some of these tricks and tips when playing with your child:
- Take pictures of your child and his/her family members doing favorite activities. Glue these pictures onto sheets of paper, staple the pages together, and voila! You have a book you and your child can enjoy together. Use simple language to describe the actions in each picture (John is sliding, Throwing the ball, etc.)
- Avoid asking your child too many questions like “What’s that?” or “What are you holding?” These types of questions, while sometimes appropriate, when overused put too much pressure on the child and may lead to decreased interest and attention. Instead, narrate your environment (“John has a ball”, “John is throwing the ball”). This will provide your child with an example of language used in different situations.
- Get down to your child’s eye level when talking to him/her. If you want your child to repeat what you are saying, you will be more successful if the child can see your face and mouth. You will also keep a child’s attention longer and more effectively if you are at his eye level.
- Playfully sabotage toys and objects to create opportunities for your child to communicate. If your child is putting a puzzle together, put all the pieces in a plastic jar and close the lid. The child will be motivated to ask you for each piece. By sabotaging the toys, you are creating a barrier to the child getting what he/she wants, which naturally encourages communication. Remember to keep it fun! You can ask your child to find the puzzle piece while you hide it in your hands, behind your back, or put it in the sleeve of his shirt (children LOVE this, and if they can’t get the piece out of their sleeve themselves, they will be motivated to ask you for help!).
Remember to be creative and have fun! There is no wrong way to play with your child. Your child loves you and loves playing with you. If you are engaged and focused on your child, he/she will also stay engaged and focused and is more likely to communicate. Happy playing and talking!
Julie Manyak, CCC-SLP