Build & Strengthen Language Skills at Home This Holiday Season:
Ideas for helping young children become more effective communicators
Ages 1-3 years
For children who struggle understanding and expressing language, the holidays can be a confusing and stressful time of year. Children with delayed or impaired language skills are often unable to engage in conversations with family members and can have a difficult time understanding the hectic and busy events going on in the home. However, the holidays can be the perfect time to help your child build and strengthen language skills through authentic and genuine language interactions. This holiday season, encourage your family members to get involved in these fun language building activities:
For Ages 1-3
For children ages 1 to 3 years, it is important for them to be able to understand and express vocabulary that is found around the home. Children who receive speech services often work on identifying age appropriate vocabulary (by pointing or retrieval) and work on producing the label (word) for basic vocabulary found in and around the home. This holiday season, your family members can help make sure your child is able to both understand and express words for the basic vocabulary categories: food, clothing, toys, animals, transportation, furniture, kitchen items, and bathroom items.
TOUR THE HOME
If you have family members coming to visit this holiday season, as they arrive have your little one escort them around your home as they take them on a “tour”. Have your child show the family member items in each room. As they enter each room, ask your child to show them certain items, allowing them to point or retrieve objects and items, demonstrating their comprehension of the vocabulary words. Also, have them tell the family member about the items in the room, allowing your child to express the vocabulary words.
If you are traveling to a family member’s house, have a family member take your child on a “tour” of their home when you arrive. Encourage the family member to ask your child to find certain objects or items in each room, allowing them to demonstrate comprehension of the vocabulary words. Also, have them ask your child to label the objects and items in the room, allowing your child to express the vocabulary words.
Grocery stores are a wonderful place to work on improving language with your child! To build and strengthen vocabulary this holiday season, have a family member go with you to the grocery store. As you shop, have your family member help your child find and label different foods (fruits, vegetables, meats, desserts, etc.) and let them help you complete your holiday grocery shopping.
For children ages 1 to 3 years, they are just learning to use words and combine them to get their needs met. Many children who receive speech therapy work on expanding points, grunts, or a simple one-word utterance to a more complex utterance (consisting of 2-3 words) to comment, answer or request. Helping to expand the length of the child’s utterance improves their ability to get their needs met. The use of basic functional sign language is also a great way to expand and elicit language. Do a quick Google search to learn functional signs like: more, help, all done, want, I, please, and thank you.
This holiday season, while you’re busy working in the kitchen, have a family member help your child expand their utterances through structured play. Structured play is any play-based activity involving toys and requires the purposeful use of language. Have a family member play with your child with their toys, but instruct the family member to only give them a few toys. In order to get more, your child has to use their words, or use 2-3 words together to get what they want. Through structured play, your child will have many opportunities to ask, “More blocks please,” or “I want blocks.” This technique is called “withholding” and can be a very effective way to elicit and expand language. If your child merely says “more”, the family member can provide a model of how to ask using 2-3 words and then prompt your child to repeat.
During mealtimes this holiday season, have a family member help your young child combine 2-3 words to request food and ask for “more potatoes please”. Give your child small portions to allow for many opportunities to practice combining words to get their needs met.
Speech-Language Pathologists are trained to help children use functional language skills and effectively communicate with others. If you have concerns about your child’s language development, contact a local Speech-Language Pathologist or consult with your child’s pediatrician to see if an evaluation is needed.
Build & Strengthen Language Skills at Home This Holiday Season: Ideas for helping young children become more effective communicators / Ages 1-3 years
Catherine Tintle, M. Ed. CCC-SLP
Catherine Tintle is a Speech-Language Pathologist who is passionate about helping children develop and refine social skills, executive functions, and expressive language. She works for Carolina Pediatric Therapy and is an avid blogger and creator of speech therapy materials. Find out more about her on her website, TheCreativeSLP.com.
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