Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Megan Myatt, a speech-language therapist who specializes in speech growth for children. She is here on the blog to share about creating a language-rich environment for babies and toddlers. Without further ado:
How to Create a Language-Rich Environment for Babies and Toddlers
One of the most common questions I receive is, “how can I help him/her talk?” And the (annoying) answer is: talk to your child. Of course, this isn’t always the solution- some children may learn language in different ways, some may need support in acquiring these skills. But in general, talking to your child will only help, it will never halt development.
When my oldest son was born, I remember the deafening silence throughout the first year. He didn’t “do” much, he didn’t talk back, and I was really, really tired. It’s hard to “find time” to get everything done, let alone work on your child’s language skills before they can talk. What you CAN do is make small adjustments to the things you’re already doing every single day. Try the following strategies to create a language-rich environment for babies and toddlers.
Involve your child in daily routines.
This is one of the quickest and easiest tips for creating a language-rich environment for babies and toddlers. Essentially- keep doing everything you usually do, everything you need to do- just include your child! Don’t forget to add language- keep it simple, repetitive, and fun. Making coffee? “Mommy’s cup, hot! Drink, yum yum! In the sink, dirty!” Changing a diaper? “Pants down, feet up, stinky! Diaper in the trash!” Everything you do has a word or a phrase that can go with it- talk about it! You’ll end up creating routines that you and your child look forward to every day.
Read with your child!
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s easy to buy books and plan to read them…but it’s another to carve out the time, hold your child’s attention, and potentially fight the “one more book!” request at bedtime. My best advice? Keep books in accessible locations (e.g., basket on the floor, small bookshelf). Find a regular reading time- maybe after breakfast, before bed, in the bath tub? Use interesting books to catch and hold your child’s attention- lift the flaps, pop ups, touch and feel, or sound books. Create fun opportunities to talk about pictures and reading in general.
Play WITH your child.
The milestone no one ever talks about: when your child FINALLY learns to play alone- celebration time! This is great and I won’t knock it completely 😉, but if you want to maximize language-learning opportunities, take a few minutes each day to play WITH your child. Or at least talk about what they’re doing. Name their toys and individual parts, actions, cause-and-effect routines, etc. Blocks? “Up, up, up, crash!” Baby doll? “Drink bottle, yum yum. Night night baby, shhh.” Balls? “Bounce, roll, throw, Mommy!”
Talking about EVERYTHING creates a language-rich environment for your babies
This seems obvious, I know. But the truth is, we move through our days in a lot of silence- especially when our kids aren’t talking back. There are hundreds of missed opportunities to use words every. single. day. When you are with your child, talk about what you see, smell, hear, feel…what you’re doing, touching, or planning. Walking into the store? “We need a cart. Sit down, wave hi! Look, there’s the bread!”
Children are always listening and learning. Fill the silence with meaningful language and create fun memories. The little things add up, I promise!
What if my child isn’t picking up on language skills?
If you’ve been using these strategies throughout your child’s first year or so of life, and they still don’t seem to be catching on, don’t hesitate to connect with the early interventionists in your area. Speech-language pathologists can support your child in their communication development.
Maryland families, I am here to help!
Growing Together: Speech-Language Therapy services the greater Carroll County, MD area, providing in-home evaluations and therapy to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with speech, language, and social communication differences.
Megan Myatt, M.S., CCC-SLP