Language Development Strategies for Parents

One of the biggest concerns parents have about their babies and toddlers is their language development.  If you are looking for language development strategies for parents that are easy to use and effective then you have come to the right place!  I would recommend using them frequently within your daily routines to have the most benefit.  Here are some examples of daily routines that would work well with these strategies:

  • Bath time
  • Diaper Changes
  • Car Rides
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Play time
  • Folding Laundry
  • Feeding Your Child
  • Cleaning
  • Book time

Effective Language Development Strategies for Parents: Are you looking for simple ideas and activities to boost your toddlers vocabulary? Using these easy strategies you can introduce your baby or toddler to the language skills they will need to imitate words and build their vocabulary. Teach communication skills during daily routines-perfect for busy moms!

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Exposure to Lots of Language


The number one thing you can do for your baby from birth on up is to talk to them. Seems simple right? Children need to hear words repeated over and over for them to be able to imitate them. Label the objects that they desire,food they want to eat, and their favorite people again and again.

Imagine that you have decided to learn Spanish (Like me…read more about that here!) If you were to step into a room of all Spanish-speaking people how would you learn the language? How many times do you think you would need to hear a new word to learn it? Now think about that from your little one’s point of view as they try to learn how to speak for the FIRST time. (Do not count on the TV for learning language….babies don’t understand it like we do!)

Providing your child with a rich language environment is the best way to encourage language development and continue to build their vocabulary all the way through childhood. Here are some examples of simple ways to increase the amount of words your little one is exposed to everyday:

Example 1: When you are at the grocery store talk about what you see and hear. Label everything that you put in your cart. With your little one sitting right there in front of you it makes it a perfect time for them to watch, listen, and learn.

Example 2: Narrate your day. Whether you are making breakfast or getting dressed, talk about what you are doing. All of your daily activities provide the perfect opportunity for your little one to learn a new set of vocabulary.

Example 3: Car time is a perfect time to talk! Describe what you are seeing as you drive. Comment on the noises or words your little one is making in the backseat.  This lets them know you are listening.  A 15 minute drive can turn into a huge language lesson.

Play to Encourage Language Development


Hands down children learn best through play. Narrating your child’s play will help them learn the names of their toys and the actions that they are doing. For example, when my son is driving his dump truck (he loves this one) I will say “go go go!” as he zooms it on the floor.

Notice that I repeat the short fun words multiple times as those are the most fun for children to imitate. Pick three target words that you really want to focus on during a play session so your child hears those words repeated frequently.

Model Language Skills


When showing your little one a new object hold it right underneath your chin. This will draw your child’s attention to your mouth and help them to imitate a new word as they are watching you. Slow down your speech just a tad and you will make it easier for them to understand you. This strategy naturally draws your child’s vision up to your face which is what they need to be watching in order to imitate.  Imitation is the first step in learning language.

Use Choices to Increase Vocabulary


Whether it be picking out a snack or what to wear for the day give your little one the opportunity to choose.  This not only exposes your child to new words but also gives them MOTIVATION to use their words to communicate.

Here is what it should look like:  Do you want a banana or Cheerios? (by asking them you are modeling both of these words that you want to be part of their vocabulary.  If possible hold up the two items for your child to see.


Give them time to respond.  If they point to their desired choice that’s great!  You then take that item and repeat its name-Cheerios?


Give them the opportunity to repeat the name.  If they don’t…that’s ok!  The goal is to get your child to the point where you can ask them a simple question and they can let you know what they need or want using words.

What if your child doesn’t point to what they want?  You will need to watch their cues and their eyes to know what they want if they are not pointing yet.  Hold up the two objects and see which one they are drawn to.  They may just gaze over  very quickly at it so you need to pay close attention.  Then give your child the desired choice.

Do not expect this to work the first time…or the second.  For this to be effective it needs to be done consistently and will take some practice.  Use choices when you can fit it in-mealtimes, getting dressed, or even asking what toy they want to play with next are all good opportunities.

Building Phrases to Increase Vocabulary


Once your child has started to master some words it is time to build on to what they say.  If you are looking at books (this book would work well) and he points and says “duck” add-on to that by repeating back “yellow duck.”  This simple strategy can be used while looking at books to help build vocabulary while engaging your young reader (read more about the benefits of early literacy.)

Try it out during a walk with your little one by talking about what you see.  If she points out the flower, add-on a descriptive word such as a color or size.

 Singing Encourages Communication Skills


One of the most natural ways to model and create repetition of words is through singing.  Whether it be “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Twinkle Twinkle” this is a simple way to engage your child in a rich language activity at any time or any place.

It doubles as a distraction if you sing to your wiggle worm while trying to change that dirty diaper.  Serenade your little one on your way to the grocery store.  These are just a couple of ways to work this strategy into your day, I bet you can think of a few more!

Target Words to Increase Vocabulary


Pick target words that you want your child to learn during playtime or a daily routine.  For example, if your toddler is getting dressed you might pick the words: on, off, and socks.  Then every time your child is getting dressed you make sure to use these words consistently.  This also works well when trying to teach your child a second language.

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About Kayla ONeill

This is me and my beautiful bouncing baby boy! Before my little guy arrived I earned a Bachelor's degree in Special Education Birth to 21 as well as my Masters in Education. For six years I worked as an Early Interventionist serving children and families from birth to age three before becoming a stay at home mom to be with my son.

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