Encouraging Early Language Development


The best way that we can encourage our children's language is through the way we communicate in every day activities. Children need to understand language before they can use it. Hanen's "4 S's" are a great way to remember some of the most important principles. They can be used in almost any interaction with your little ones throughout the day. I always think it's easiest to pick one to start with, and then build from there.

  1. Say less
    When we use big long sentences all the time, we give our kids a lot to process at once. Using shorter, more direct phrases/sentences gives them much more of a chance to soak in what we are saying. E.g. instead of "can you please run over there to the door and bring me back your shoes sweetie?" Try "Get your shoes (please)". Instead of "wow, can you see that big truck over there?" Try "wow! That's a big truck!".
  2. Stress
    By that I mean - emphasise! Use the stress in your voice to highlight the key words in the sentence. E.g. "LOOK! It's a BIRD" or "GET your SHOES, please".
  3. Slow down
    I think this one speaks for itself. It's harder than it sounds to do but makes all the difference. Try waiting at least 4 seconds after each thing you say to give your little one an opportunity to respond. In some children, this may be non-verbal (e.g. a look, gesture or a smile).
  4. Show
    Where possible, use gesture (pointing, actions or even sign) or actual objects to support what you are saying. E.g. "Get your hat (Pat top of head). Put it in your bag (point to where their bag is)".
  5. Repeat Repeat Repeat!!
    Children need to hear words and grammar structures LOTS of times before they learn them!

As an interesting side note: These are also good principles to use when speaking with someone still learning the language you are using.