Encouraging talking

All parents and carers look forward to the day when their child can talk and tell them their needs and preferences. When children are able to do this, it leads to reduced tension and fewer behavioural outbursts. There is something very easy that you can do to help encourage your child with their talking. The secret is modelling language.

Modelling is repeating back what your child says but providing an accurate example. This can be done anytime, anyplace and anywhere! Modelling involves:

    • repeating
    • emphasising
    • expanding

  • Listen to what the child says…

  • Repeat back – but using an accurate model. If your child says, ‘I seeed fishes in the pond’, say ‘You saw fish in the pond’. Don’t ask your child to repeat it back after you. The most important thing is that they hear the correct sentence. If you ask for it to be repeated, it will be likely to come out wrong. This is counter-productive and will only add to the frustration.

  • Emphasise slightly the words that you want your child to listen to.
  • Expand your sentence by one or two more words, to develop your child’s sentence structure, e.g. ‘You saw shiny fish in the pond’.

    smiling little boy


More Top Tips for encouraging talking

a) Wait!

    • Give children plenty of time to organise their thoughts before they talk.
    • Consider how hard it is to learn an additional language, the time it takes you to find the words and construct a sentence. This is true for children learning English as their first or additional language too.
b) Use good interaction strategies.

girl holding hands with someone out of shot
c) Give your child an opportunity to communicate.

    • Sometimes at home children can help themselves freely to toys and snacks, or their family members can predict what they want and give it to them without them having to ask. This means they can move through the day with very little need to initiate conversation.
    • So, it is important to provide opportunities where your child has to ask for things. For example, put the cereal or TV remote out of reach so they have to request it. Try not to step in and fulfil their every need. Instead, model how to ask, then give the item when your child makes an attempt to ask (even if it’s just a noise or a reach towards the item).
    • For older children, create problem-solving activities in which your child has to work out what might happen, or has to share ideas with other children and co-operate with others.
    • Don’t always step in and solve these problems for your child. Step back and see what happens. Obviously if it is becoming dangerous or your child is getting upset, you will need to intervene.

d) DON’T correct mistakes… model instead!

e) Check your child’s understanding.

Web links

Check out these pages to find lots more information and great ideas.

  • 9 ways to help your child’s language development
  • Early Years Language (please note this includes guidance for parents whose children have Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)
  • Activities to encourage speech and language development
  • The Fundamental Building Blocks of Speech and Language
  • Verbal communication (babies and toddlers)
  • Helping toddlers expand language skills

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    Last modified: Friday, 15 May 2020, 2:27 PM