Language Development Activities

These are short descriptions of the language development activities and ideas that I often give parents to get kids talking.  More information on each is available in my Learning How to Talk program.  

  • Interpret– When your child makes sounds and you have a good idea what those sounds might mean, say the same sounds back first (imitate) and then say the word(s) that the sounds might have meant.  For example, if you child is playing with a ball and says “a a a” you say “a a a … ball”.  Be careful though not to confuse this with pretending to understand.  Pretending to understand is not helpful – it can actually delay communication.

  • Follow Your Child’s Lead and Talk– expose your child to lots of talking that is at or just above what they are able to say. Talk about what they are seeing “Look dog!”, what they are experiencing “Bath time”, and what you are doing “Mmmm soup.”  Talk lots but leave lots of spaces for your child to take his turn.Focus the talking and your attention on what your child is interested in – Follow Your Child’s Lead.  

  • Take Turns by having a “conversation“ with your child.  Let him start with an action or a sound.  Take your turn by imitating, or saying something or doing something.  Then wait “expectantly” for your child to take his turn.  Wait for at least 15 seconds.  If he hasn’t taken any turn, you take another and then wait again.  Turns can be a look, an action, a sound or a word. Taking turns is having a conversation. 

  • Routines.  Say the same words as you do the same things over and over again.  Say “up, up, up” as you walk up the stairs.  Say “Sock on, shoe on”.  Say “Shut the door” etc.  Also play games where you say the same words over and over again before something fun happens.  “Bubble” before you blow a bubble, “Splash” before you splash in the tub, “Up” before you toss him in the air, “Go” before you chase him, etc.   By repeating the words over and over again in the same routine your child gets to know and expect the words.  Gradually encourage your child to try to imitate the word before the action happens.  Say the word with lots of “anticipation” in your voice and look at your child “expectantly” before doing the action.  

  • Offer Choices.  Hold up a choice in each hand.  Wait for her to look, point, make a sound or say a word.  After she has chosen, say the word for the choice 3 or 4 times and give her what she wants.  Gently encourage your child to make their best communication attempt (look, point, sound or word) but don’t cause too much frustration.  Plan ahead what you will expect.  Never hold out for more than your child can do.  You cannot make children talk.  

  • Limit Questions and Requests.  Limit the number of times you directly ask your child to say words, such as “Say dog”, “Can you say dog”, “Tell grandma Dog”.  Testing or trying to “make” children talk causes children to talk less.  Provide the information – “Look, dog” along with lots of time for your child to take their “turn”.  Watch the number and type of questions that you ask.  Questions such “What this?” or ”What does a cow say?” stops conversations. Comments such as “Wow, look at the big cow” or open questions such as “Where did the cow go?” provide better opportunities for communication.  

  • Make a book.  Children love to “talk” about people, places and things that are important to them.  Use a small photo album and create you child’s own personal Picture Book.  Use photos of people, places and things that are meaningful to your child.  Their favorite toy, food, person, place etc.  Try to keep the photos simple without a lot of clutter in the background.  The book can be used in several different ways.  First it is a great way to encourage your child “talk” about the pictures and to stimulate language development.  The book can also be used to help to your child show you what they are talking about when you are having a hard time understanding. He can point to Spaghetti to let you know what he wants for supper.  

I hope these language development activities and ideas help. Please let me know if you have any questions. I can be reached at

Madison Garvi – SLPatHome