The development of language and communication skills is very important in early childhood. Language will help your child with early learning and social skills. Review simple things that you can do at home to help with your child’s language development.

What are the different types of language?

The 2 types of language include:

  • Expressive language. This includes the sounds, words or gestures that your child uses to communicate his needs, wants or feelings.
  • Receptive language. This includes how well your child understands what others are communicating.

How can I help build my child's expressive and receptive langauge?

To help build expressive language:

  • Talk out loud often about what you or your child is doing, seeing or hearing during daily routines and play. For example, while making lunch, you might say “Here is the bread. Put the peanut butter on the bread. The jelly goes on top. I need more bread. Now I’m cutting the bread. Let’s eat the sandwich!”
  • Use choices in your daily routines. Try to limit the questions you ask that have a “yes” or “no” answer. This can help your child use more words. For example, you might say “Do you want water or milk with your snack?”
  • Focus more on functional words (words that help your child communicate his feelings, wants and needs). Try to focus less on numbers, letters or colors at this age.

To help build receptive language:

  • Point at objects or show objects to get your child’s attention.
  • Make facial expressions to match your words.
  • Add language to describe what your child is doing or has just done. For example, you might say “Put your napkin in the trash and the spoon in the sink when you were done with your snack.”
  • Create opportunities for your child to use receptive language. For example, you might say “Show me the ___ (book),” “Hand me the ___ (spoon)” or “Where is your ___ (nose)?”

What else can I do to help my child's language development?

  • Limit screen time. Children learn language and social skills best by interacting with other people. Research also suggests that the more time children play with smart phone, tablets or other screens, the more likely they are to have a language delay.
  • Read with your child every day. Talk about the pictures. You don’t always have to read every word on the page! Sometimes, it is helpful to notice what your child is looking at and talk about it. While reading, ask your child questions. Name objects and act out actions in the book. Visit your local library and borrow books about things your child likes.
  • Play with your child. Play with whatever your child is interested in. Be silly and help your child play pretend and use his imagination.
  • Practice “serve and return” with your child. Imagine a game of tennis or ping-pong.
  • Watch your child for “serves” (looking or pointing at something). You can “return” by making a sound, facial expression or naming the object. For example, if your child points to a toy car, you could say, “I see the toy car too!” Pick up and label the object your child is focused on.

Does speaking a second language at home cause a language delay?

No. The best way you can support language development is to use sentences with correct words and grammar. Use a wide range of vocabulary in your strongest language.

Hearing more than one language does not cause or raise your child’s risk of language delay. Do not delay a referral for speech and language services if your child is learning more than one language at home.

What is a speech and language evaluation?

A speech and language evaluation is an appointment at which a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) evaluates and treats language delays or disorders of communication, reading or swallowing.

What is early intervention?

Your child’s doctor may recommend a referral to Early Intervention (EI) This service is for children ages 0-3 with a delay in development or who are at risk for a delay. If your child qualifies for services, the visits typically take place in your home in your child’s natural play environment. The coordinator will help support your family and teach you how to help with your child’s development.

Rev. 3/2018. Reviewed by the CARMA Advisory Board.