Talking – to develop
Learning to talk is exciting! It starts right after birth. It should be fun for the child, family and friends, but it is not necessarily easy. The process of talking involves listening, understanding, thinking, wanting and needing to speak and being able to co-ordinate all the right muscles.
Children learn to talk at different ages. Some children utter their first intelligible word before they are a year old, while others may not speak until they are over two. Generally, however, children start to talk by 18 months old. Children need to be encouraged to talk in much the same way as they are encouraged to walk. A young child cannot learn to speak unless he/she has heard speech around them, so he/she needs to be talked to by his/her parents. Talk about what you are doing, slowly and clearly, using simple language. A child has to learn that every object and action has a name.
The following are some ways in which you can encourage the child to learn to talk, but be patient! The process is gradual and may seem slow. Words may be unclear and the child may stumble or hesitate. This is normal. Have fun together:-
Talk to the child when you are playing together – show the child how to play, but also follow your child’s lead, do not take over playing for him/her.Have fun with nursery rhymes and action songs. This is a good way to practise speech sounds without pressure and introduces an awareness of rhyme, an important prerequisite for reading.
Encourage the child to listen to different sounds, e.g. aeroplanes, animals, the postman. Make a game of imitating noises.
Ensure you gain the child’s attention when you want to talk together. Switch off the television; it will help to have no distractions.
Encourage the child to communicate in any way, not just words, e.g. gestures help make links between words and meaning and can help support word retrieval. Respond positively to the child’s attempts to communicate.
Increase vocabulary by giving choices (rather than anticipating need or asking questions which only require a yes/no response) e.g. “Do you want orange or milk?”.
Talk about things as they happen, e.g. unpacking the shopping, having a bath, watching television.
Give the child interesting experiences, e.g. a trip to the park, zoo etc.
Listen carefully and give the child time to finish. Do not speak for him/her or anticipate what he/she needs. Take turns to speak.
Give the child opportunities to talk with you and other familiar adults and let him/her mix and play with children of his/her own age.
Help the child to use more words by adding to what is said, e.g. “ball” can be expanded to “throw the ball” or “the ball’s gone”. If the child says something incorrectly, say it yourself the correct way, e.g.“Toap”, “Yes, soap”. Do not tell the child to say “soap” or make him/her repeat words. This may develop a negative attitude to attempting to speak.
Try to have a special time with the child each day to play with toys and look and talk about picture books. Have fun together.