Language and communication skills

Ways to communicate and behave with your child that can improve their own language and communications skills.

Help develop language and communication skills

  • Get your child's attention when you speak
    • use your child's name when you start to speak
    • be close to your child at their level, face to face
    • encourage them to look at you or the activity they are doing.
  • Don't give them too much to understand in one go
    • Use short, simple sentences.
    • Use words your child knows and understands.
    • Give visual clues – point, gesture, exaggerate your facial expression, show your child what you want them to do.
    • Ask questions that are easy to answer – for example: "Are you hungry?" rather than "What's wrong?"
    • Provide a running commentary on what you/your child are doing so they can pick up the words.
    • Break down instructions or questions into simple steps, sometimes one at a time.
  • Make it clear what you expect
    • Give prompt, meaningful feedback to your child on what they did well – for example: "Well done, I liked the way you did …"
    • Be positive and emphasise what was done correctly.
    • Explain and show your child what you want.
    • Write a story with your child, with them starring in it, about something they find difficult. In the story describe the problem, what the child does and the inappropriate response. End the story by agreeing a better outcome, for example: "Next time I will try hard to …"
  • Encourage your child and give them confidence
    • Give them time to reply.
    • Use a facial expression to let them know when a reply is needed from them.
    • Ask your child what they have heard so far, to check they understand.
    • Repeat and emphasise key words.
    • Talk about things your child has had direct experience of
    • Give praise and show that you value what your child is saying.
    • Ask helpful questions such as: "Do you mean …?" to check you understand what your child is trying to say.
    • Interpret what your child is saying when they are interacting with other people.
    • Give your child the freedom to make choices, for example by saying: "Do you want x or y?"
    • Take responsibility if your child doesn't get things right, for example: "I'm sorry I didn't explain that properly", and be supportive, for example: "That was a good try. I think we can make it even better."

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