Speech and Language Development

If there is one thing that is vital to a child’s development and future life, it is speech and language (S&L). It is quite common for some children to struggle with speech sounds but that does not mean that they are not developing language and understanding so even if your child is struggling with speech and language there is still lots you can do to support them.

The one thing that has been proven to be actually detrimental to S&L is background television noise. This is not the same as watching television (not proven to be negative) but it is having the television on in the background whilst doing other things. Many people think that screen time is detrimental – this has not been proven but what we do know for sure is that children learn more from a human than a screen – that is fact!

So the message is, don’t feel guilty about a small amount of screen time as long as you balance it with a greater amount of real interaction.

Here are some helpful tips to support your child:

  • Talk and talk and talk with young children all the time
  • Listen – when they want to speak give them lots of time and really listen and show you are interested
  • Correction doesn’t work but reflecting back does e.g. ‘it’s not dar it’s car’. Reflect back ‘you have got a car, it’s red’
  • Using open questions which require a bit of thinking will be more beneficial than a question that requires a right or wrong answer e.g. ‘I wonder why lions have big teeth, what do you think?’ instead of ‘Are lions teeth big or small?’
  • Elaborate on children’s sentences to extend them e.g. child says ‘look at my star’ reply with ‘I can see your bright sparkly star’. Children pick up language just by hearing it so soon enough you will hear them using the same words as you have used with them.
  • Sing! Nursery rhymes and songs. The rhythm of singing embeds language in the brain – I bet you can remember songs from your childhood despite not having sung them for years!
  • Talk about different things – a picture you see; the shape of leaves; colours of cars; animals; what babies do; different foods in the supermarket; families; shops etc.
  • Try to talk about things other than the day to day patterns, (what drink would you like; can you get your pyjamas on; its nearly bedtime; please eat up your carrots; can you get your boots on) How about, ‘ I wonder which animals build nests’ or ‘Why don’t we have brown hair?’ and be sure to accept the answers they give.
  • Looking at photos of themselves is a great talking point (given that children are very centred around themselves). Why were they smiling? Who were they with? What did they feel like? What happened before or after? Would they like to go there again?
  • Have a discussion not just a question and answer. Can you keep a conversation about a topic going with your child for a few minutes or longer?

For lots more really useful ideas of how to promote S&L have a look at:


Helen Adams