The Art of Language: 12 Tips for Encouraging Communication SkillsI find language development quite fascinating. My first son started babbling at 10 months of age. He had his own language and would babble to imaginary people. It was quite humorous to watch. I’m pretty sure he was imitating us. Yet, it wasn’t until about four that anyone could understand him.Now at 22 years of age, he’s not much of a talker at all, but he’s a great listener and he still likes to imitate people. My daughter didn’t start talking until she was two. She didn’t have to. Her babbling brother did it all for her. Now she talks nonstop and with exuberant energy. And, my twins, well, they both try to talk at the same time, yet they are both very soft spoken and at times we have to ask them to repeat themselves. For a long time their “R”s sounded like “W”s, which is typical for many children as well. Now we get them to talk by encouraging them to sing. So, not only do they benefit, but we get a performance as well.
Strategies for Encouraging SpeechI have worked closely with a few speech language pathologists over the years and, at times, picked their brain for some tips and tricks on verbal skill development. As a mom, lover of language and “out of the box” thinker, I’ve come up with some great strategies for encouraging speaking and communication skills. These are SLP (speech language pathology) approved and kid tested!
1. Just Say It!Take time (beginning from your children’s “birth” day) to talk to your children, not about them, but to them. Sit down, cell phone down, I-pad down, look your child in the eye and converse. Pick any topic you want or let them choose when they’re old enough. Make this a habit. And, remember, eye contact is important. Children are not just learning to hear and learning to speak, they are learning to “see” body language too.
2. Read Out Loud. Read. Read. Read.Kids love to hear stories, so you can use a book, make up stories or have them make one up with you. You can start a story and let your child finish it or go back and forth with each person adding to the story. Books and stories encourage language development like nothing else can.
3. SignsPut signs around your home. Hang up a wipe erase board. Use a hand held board, like the Write and Talk Speech Therapy Mirror. Label things. Point out signs on the road. Make a scavenger hunt. Use the written word to engage your child and watch them squeal with delight when they can read a sign.
4. ListenIf you’re a talker, stop talking and start listening. Become attentive and watch for both verbal and nonverbal (body) language.
5. MoveGo for a walk, jump on a trampoline or get your kids swinging. You will be amazed how much more they will verbalize and talk when they are moving.
6. The ArtsPut on some classical music and pull out some art tools. Music and art will bring out not only the budding artist but provide a calm atmosphere for talking too. Wind instruments are also great for developing oral motor skills, which children need for better lip/tongue and mouth control.
7. Jump On StageSign your child up for an acting class where they will learn the art of communication. Get a microphone or karyoke machine. There’s nothing like a microphone to get your kids talking.
8. VideographyKids love making movies. Turn on the video and start taping and they’ll start talking. Let them even make their own show. Sometimes teachers will let your kids do a video presentation in lieu of a report in school.
9. SiriHave you spoken to Siri? My boys have entire conversations with her. If you haven’t met her, she’s the voice on most I-phones and I-pads. She’s quite funny too. Your kids can ask her questions and she answers them. Then try letting your child be “Siri.” You can ask questions and have your child answer.
10. Skype or Google ChatStart a hangout or just Google chat with your child. Kids love to talk over the computer to friends, grandparents and siblings. Set up a regular time each week.
11. Use Apps to Your AdvantageThere are many apps for speech and language but proceed with caution. Too much time with apps can actually hinder communication between real people. Technology is fabulous but good ‘ol’ face-to-face cannot be replaced.
12. Mirror facesDraw faces on a mirror with wipe erase marker and they mimic them together.
Enjoy your time together and watch your children become excellent communicators!