Dear Jacqui, what are the best ways to encourage my 3 year old’s language development?

Making language the focus of everyday life can make a big difference to a child’s development. This should be natural and not forced. Here are some ways to help:

  • Use lots of facial expressions.
  • Spend time with the child.
  • Be at his/her eye level.
  • Follow the child’s lead.
  • Find out what the child is interested in doing, and do it with them.
  • Talk about the things the child is playing with. Example: “That is a big ball! You are rolling the ball!”
  • Use language that is grammatically correct, not “baby talk.” Example: “Mia wants the ball!” instead of “Mia want ball!”
  • When the child says something that is short, repeat what the child says with the right grammar. Then add some extra information about the topic. Example: If the child says, “Car go,” you say, “The car is going up the ramp.”
  • Ask the child some questions to extend their language. Example: ask questions during book-reading or daily routines, e.g. “You are washing your hands. What colour is the soap? (It’s blue)”

Children learn language through parents’ examples, but parents do not need to purposefully encourage language every moment of the day. No matter how much parents use these strategies, they should also be sure to give the child a lot of opportunities to communicate. If a child has a language delay or disorder, he/she will also require therapy from a Speech and Language therapist.