How to create language learning opportunities for your little ones

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A great way to set up a language learning “moments” for your little one is by putting wanted objects in places where your child can see them but can’t retrieve them on their own.
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Putting wanted objects in sight but out of reach

A great way to set up a language learning “moments” for your little one is by putting wanted objects in places where your child can see them but can’t retrieve them on their own. If there is motivation to get the item that is in the counter or up high on the shelf what do you think they will do? That’s right, ask for it! Depending on your child’s expressive communication level, any/all attempts should be praised – A gesture? Sure. A sound? Good. A word? Great! A full sentence? Wonderful!! Maybe your child just points to their juice; that’s communicating. In that moment, go ahead and give them the word, “juice” right then and there. As time goes on, give them a little more language by adding a few words like, “drink juice” or “Mommy get me juice!” It is SO easy to give little ones what they want and not have them use their words to get their wants/needs met. Take a minute to pause and allow for these language moments to blossom. 

Setting the Stage

Another great example of how to get our kiddos to chat more is set the stage for many opportunities to talk! Any time you are using multiples (especially during snack!), rather than giving your little one ALL of the Cheerios or pretzels, give them a few and PAUSE to see HOW they attempt to ask for more. This is a great way to build on language, like we mentioned before. One of my favorite examples given to me has been as follows; Have you ever been to dinner at a restaurant with a preset menu? This can be a wonderful opportunity, but there is a significant decrease in what we need to communicate with our server – same with our little ones! When we have it all planned out for our kiddos we are missing out on great language opportunities. Providing choices is also a wonderful trick to keep up your sleeve – choices can increase confidence in our children and they allow for them to use their language skills to quickly be rewarded. Bonus: It may help to even reduce some of those disruptive behaviors if done so before they begin to appear! 

Asking for help

Use storage containers or boxes that are tricky to open to store your child’s favorite food and toys. This is a great way to promote the usage of the word “help” or “open”. Same goes for toys your child struggles with – rather than swooping in to the rescue, wait for your child to reach out and ask for help (communicate with you!). When your child wants the container open, model “open” or “help” (while you are assisting) and then CLOSE the container again, if possible. Repeat this action, so long as your child remains interested in the activity, to practice this language.  Practice makes a difference!

Summary

As parents, we naturally want to give our children what they need and want. Remembering to pause, and use these learning moments, allows them to develop that critical skill of increasing independence. This, truly, is our goal!  If we forget that goal, and  give our children everything without them having to ask for it, then they have no reason to communicate what they need, and lose the opportunity to grow in new ways. 

Try these strategies, and see what your kids can learn!

  • Put things out of reach
  • Give a sippy cup with no water in it
  • Put in bath but don’t turn the water on
  • Give some food, but not all
  • Present child with toys in containers
  • Wait for communication attempts

We’d love to hear from you!  What have you tried? What has worked?

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