My two-year-old daughter started talking pretty early on. But just because she could tell me what she wanted didn't always mean we communicated effectively.
It can be frustrating, especially to new parents, when kids are first learning to talk. So I reached out to Fiona Barry, founder of talkingtipsforkids.com who provided tips for helping children develop their speech and language skills. Here are her top five tips:
1. Tune in
"You need to tune into your child’s level of communication, even from birth, so that you can act as a responsive conversation partner," Barry said. Follow your child's lead in play and conversations and you’ll get so much more from your interaction with them.
2. Speak up
It’s time to add some language in. "Talk about the here and now with young children, if you see it, say it," she said. "Find as many times in the day when you can chat as possible. Talk about what you can see out of the car window, chat about the washing as you hang it up or comment on what your child’s doing as they play. Make time for talk."
3. Learn to love books
Nurture a love of reading in your child and you’ll set them up for being capable talkers, readers and writers as they grow up, Barry said. "To be able to read and write a child needs to be able to use and understand spoken language first," she said. "They also need to find reading and writing fun and exciting." You can make books the champion in the house instead of the TV or games consoles. Make book reading part of your family life.
4. Sing, sing, sing
Singing songs and nursery rhymes with your child, even from before birth, provides them with a great springboard into some of the underlying skills needed for learning to talk, read and write. "Songs provide the perfect structure for learning language because they’re predictable and repetitive," she said. "They help you to bond with your child and are excellent for soothing cross, upset or bored little ones."
5. Listen first
Communication is not just about talking. For a conversation to flow we need to listen to what the other person is saying," Barry said. Children need to develop good attention and listening skills not only to learn new words and sentences but also to become good at conversations. "Children learn by example so when we listen to children they learn how to be good listeners themselves," she said.