Is your child or client a late talker? Do you need to increase their vocabulary? There are a lot of effective and evidence-based strategies that you can use to help build vocabulary.
Once a child learns verbal imitation, you can start offering verbal choices throughout an activity or even throughout the day to expand your child’s vocabulary. For example, during bubble play if you want to expand your child’s language to include attributes, you could ask, “Do you want big bubbles or little bubbles?” If you’re lucky, your child will imitate either “big” or “little.” This effective strategy can be used to teach a variety of vocabulary, including:
Pronouns: “Whose turn to blow, is it my turn, or is it your turn?”
Prepositions: “Where should we blow the bubbles, up or down?”
Quantitative Concepts: “Should I blow a few bubbles or a lot of bubbles?”
Verbs: “Do you want to pop or blow the bubbles?”
In addition to using choices, there are additional strategies that can be just as effective. These strategies include:
Self-talk can help build your child’s understanding of language. When using self-talk, you are essentially putting words to the activities that you are doing. For example, when giving your child a bath you can describe your actions such as, “Let’s get your hair wet. Now let’s get the shampoo. I am scrubbing your hair to get it clean. Now let’s rinse the soap out.”
Parallel Talk is used to describe your child’s actions or play and is another way to help them build understanding of words, as well as to provide a model of the words that they can use later when they are ready. So, if your child is stacking blocks you can model, “Blocks on. You are building a tall tower. You put the red block on top of the blue one.”
Recasting + Expansion
When your child begins talking, you can help your child to start building phrases by repeating what they say and then adding an additional word, or two. For example, if your child says, “dog” you can recast by saying “Yes, that is a dog” and then expand by adding more words such as, “It is a big dog!”
When children are initially learning language, they need to hear words over and over again in order to learn the word meaning. Once they understand what the word means, they will begin to use the word. So, while you may feel a bit repetitive by saying the word “shoe” each time you help your little one to get dressed, it is this repetition that will help them to learn the word quickly.
Using the same words, in the same way, for the same things, every time a specific activity occurs is an easy way to help promote language skills. You can create your own verbal routines depending on the activities that you do with your child. Once your child becomes familiar with the routine language that you have been modeling for them, you can add a pause during the activity to allow your child to fill-in the missing word. An easy verbal routine can include the phrase, “ready, set, go!” You can use this verbal routine when walking up the stairs, before turning on the bath water, or when blowing bubbles. The repetition that verbal routines provide help in sticking the words in your child’s auditory and working memory. The more a child hears the same words in a particular context, the better he associates with what is being said to him and the quicker he will start to use these words on his own.
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