As parents we constantly compare our child's progress to that of others - especially when they are young. If your child isn't communicating the same way as other kids his age, it can be worrisome and frustrating.
It is important to rule out common problems or more serious communication disorders, but there are things you can do every day to help improve your child's communication skills.
One of the most important things you can do at home to help your children is to read to them everyday - no matter their age. Here are some other tips:
When They Are Babies (under 6 months):
- Talk to your baby in whatever language you want. You can also speak more than one language if you wish.
- Play out loud. "Mommy is putting the cow in the barn. The cow says 'moo'"
- When they coo, coo back. They are talking to you.
- Exaggerate your facial expressions when you're talking to them.
- Be very responsive. Attribute meaning to the cooing to get a conversational routine going ("You sound like you're hungry. Are you hungry?"). They love listening to the tone of your voice.
- Label things. If your child is looking at a cat, say "cat." Tell them what they are seeing.
- Don't use too much or complex language. Keep it simple.
- Play back-and-forth games like peek-a-boo.
- Sing songs that require a response like Old MacDonald.
When They Are Older (6 months to 3 years):
- Do not yell and try not to get frustrated when your child is having trouble with words. They are not doing it on purpose. What may seem simple is actually a huge developmental mountain for them to climb. They will master it with help, not stress and pressure.
- Speak in simple sentences using simple language.
- Try to talk to them as much as you can. They learn to communicate from you so do as much of it as possible.
- Break it down. Try clapping out the different words in a sentence.
- Count syllables. Kids need to recognize that there are different sounds in a word. Try clapping out each syllable in words.
- It's rhyme time. Rhymes are a really good way to teach kids how to manipulate sounds. Sing rhyming songs together or look for books with rhymes in them.
- Emphasize the first letter in a word. Try, "Look, there's something that starts with the sound 'mm.' It's a mm-an."
- Make sure you are doing these things in a natural way. Flash cards and video games are really not necessary.
Remember that all children develop differently and at different times. If your child is meeting the basic milestones, then you have nothing to worry about.