Updated: Jul 30
In last week’s discussion, I brought up your child’s milestones and what targets your child should be hitting at what age. I also mentioned a few strategies you could add in your day to help boost your child’s language and I've got another one for you today.
As a speech-language therapist, I’m constantly in search of new strategies and activities, and I’ve been studying and working in childhood education for over fifteen years. But, even though I like to dive deep into how and why language and speech and feeding work, it’s always important to return to the basics.
I’ve been into parents’ homes before, and when I start to show some of the strategies they can use with their child, they look at me like, “that’s it? Aren’t you going to swoop in here with some fancy intervention?” Yes, sometimes my interventions are a little more technical, but most of what I teach parents are things they once knew when they were children.
My experience has taught me that some very simple changes in how a family communicates can lead to a lot of growth in their child’s speech and language.
So, here's another one of those quick, easy to implement strategies.
Follow Your Child’s Lead
When I first started working in early intervention, I felt that I needed to have all of the best toys in order to keep a child engaged. I would bring a toy bag full of battery powered games, puzzles, and blocks. But sometimes the child just wasn’t too interested in that puzzle or that book on that particular day.
Then I started to learn about following a child's lead. This doesn’t mean that you follow your child around all day long and comment on what they’re interested in. It’s really about connecting with your child based on their interests. There are times we can direct our child’s learning but there are also times when it’s nice to step back, see what’s got our child’s attention, and join in from there.
When you want to use some of the language strategies I’ll continue sharing with you over the next few weeks, start first with what’s most interesting to your child. It’ll be so much easier for your child to interact with you if he doesn’t have to shift his attention. Instead of saying, “hey, look at this” join in on what they’re already doing. I’m not saying that you never take the lead in offering toys, singing songs, or reading books. But if you notice that something is fascinating to your child or keeps them really interested, you’ve got a great opportunity to build language and interaction around something that is meaningful to them.
For example, say that you want to work on building your child’s vocabulary. At first you think that you should ask your child to come sit down at his small table and look at the book with you. Your child is looking out the window at some birds. If you want to follow your child’s lead in that moment, you can set the book aside for a little while and look out the window with him. Talk about the birds. Make bird sounds together. Describe what the bird looks like. You already have his attention so take advantage of it.
You can still definitely offer different toys to your child and introduce them to new books. I’m not proposing you follow your child around all day observing his interests and never lead. Your child will benefit from you introducing different activities because they’ll get new experiences, learn new songs, and grow their play skills. But, if you can from time to time join your child in their world then they'll learn much more willingly and easily. We all love to talk about our interests with other people, and we appreciate it when other people notice our interests and ask us more about them. Children are the same because guess what, they’re little people. Took me a while to figure that out. So, notice what captures your child’s interest and then get on their level to interact with them.
How have you followed-your-child's-lead this week? What changed in your interactions when you got on your child’s level?
And, keep an eye out for my book coming out, hopefully in the next two months on your child’s bilingual language development.