Parents are always looking for ways to help their children develop the best language skills possible. Keep in mind that developmental milestones often have a normal range–this is also true for speech development.
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Please make sure you reach out to a local speech-language pathologist (also known as a speech therapist) for support if you feel a speech delay or your child doesn't meet a language milestone. They will be able to guide you on speech therapy and can help support language development.
How to help a 3-year-old who is not talking but understands everything
It can be not easy communicating with a 3-year-old who is not talking but understands what you are saying. The child will likely get frustrated (and then you'll get frustrated), so it's important to understand that often time expressive language (what kids can actually say out loud) is very often lagging behind receptive language (what they understand).
It can feel like an uphill battle with language delays, but children with speech delays need patience and support. Teaching children about language is vital to their development, even if they can't speak yet.
What should I do when my toddler only speaks gibberish?
Your young one may be just playing around with sound combinations and an imitation of sounds at this point. Still, you'll want to continue reading to them, singing and rhyming with them, and encourage them to participate in communication the best way they know-how.
Try not to worry about them getting things right–pay attention to their non-verbal communication and tone of voice. Understand that everyday situations can be learning opportunities.
What to do if your child is not talking and they are getting frustrated?
One of the first things you'll want to do when this happens is to make sure it's just a temporary phase – some kids will start speaking early while others may be slow at picking up on oral language skills.
However, if it seems like something more serious might be going on, you are worried about language disorders. You will need another assessment done by a speech-language pathologist that can identify what needs to happen next for your child.
Tips in Building Your child's language skills
As a parent, there is always something to do in nurturing and building your child's aptitude for language: reading books with them or talking about the pictures on TV; playing word games like “I Spy,” or helping them make up stories together. The more time you spend doing these things, the better.
While most kids start speaking by age two, many don't talk in complete sentences until closer to three years old. That doesn't mean they have a developmental delay – it just means it takes some extra time for them to develop language skills.
So encourage those early words through repeated conversation (even if all they say is “mama”) and try not to correct them when they're wrong.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building your child's language skills, but these tips are a great place to start!
- Start by introducing a new word to your child. Point out the object or action as you say it and repeat this until they can identify it independently without any help.
- Provide various experiences in life that introduce language skills, such as playing interactive games with them about guessing what an animal says based on its sound.
- Introduce different languages for them to learn at an early age.
- Provide opportunities for your child to make decisions as part of the learning process to develop a sense of independence by choosing what different food or shirt they want without feeling pressured due to their inability with language skills.
Many children can make their wishes known with non-verbal communication–and introducing sign language can help them more easily communicate if their verbal language skills are still developing.
Incorporating of Language Skills in Games and Play
Incorporating language skills in games and play is a great way to help your child build their communication, reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Try these ideas next time you're looking for family fun:
- Play word games like Hangman or Scrabble – even just playing with magnetic letters on the fridge can be educational.
- Read aloud together. Take turns describing something using adjectives from our list of Words that Describe.
- Play a Memory matching game using cards with pictures of things that are related to a topic.
- Do these simple activities: “What are we doing?” (Talking about what you're currently doing), “I am going to go outside.” (talking about future events), or “Oops! I spilled my milk!” (expressing feelings).
Why is play important in early childhood?
Play is a vital part of childhood development. At the heart of the play, children learn how to explore, experiment with new ideas and skills, solve problems on their own, collaborate with others, share what they have learned, and problem-solve.
Letting your child play with you is a meaningful way to help your child develop language skills.
Here are some ideas for how play can foster language development:
- Talk to your child while playing.
- Respond enthusiastically when they say something new, even if you don't understand what it means.
- Give verbal descriptions of things that are happening in the game as they happen.
- Encourage expression and communication by asking open-ended questions about games and activities.
- If you want to limit your child's playtime, do so after they have engaged in an hour or more of creative and imaginative activity.
Learning Language Skills as Part of Play
Every parent wants their child to learn and get better at language skills, but many of us don't know where to start. An excellent place for building vocabulary is through play; a game of chase or hide-and-seek can teach your child who “chased” or “hid.”
If you're playing with blocks, ask them to make the word cat using just one letter from each block. It will introduce new words and ways that letters represent sounds which is an early literacy skill.
Another way parents can foster early literacy skills is by reading together with kids before bedtime.
Talking with your child and Developing His Language and Vocabulary
Talking with your child is a great way to develop his language and vocabulary. It's also crucial for you as a parent, teacher, or caregiver to talk about the world around him because these are the topics they will want to learn more about through reading and other activities. You can encourage them by using lots of different words that describe what happens in everyday life.
It will help a toddler learn new words more quickly if you are a supportive partner for his explorations and play. For example, if he's playing with cars, use the names of different car models as you speak to him about them: “That is a big truck!” or “What color is your fire engine?”
You can expand on what your child has learned by talking in-depth about word meanings and concepts that they've been exposed to. It will help make learning second nature.
For example, if your toddler sees an airplane flying overhead, talk together about where it came from (the airport), why airplanes fly (“so people can travel”), how high up the plane is (“it looks like it might be far out there”), and the size of the plane (“it looks like it's a big airplane”).
It will help your child make sense of what he sees, hears, or feels. In addition, by engaging with him as he explores his world using language–verbally and non-verbally–you'll foster his development not only linguistically but also intellectually.
As children grow older, they can do more complex tasks that require them to understand both spoken and written words. But even though speech comprehension develops before reading comprehension does, there are many ways parents can promote their child's literacy skills from an early age.
Teach letters by naming body parts: “this letter L says ‘leg,'” for example, or “this letter D says ‘dog.'” Read stories to your child every day, and make a reading routine that he can count on.
Word Games for a 3-Year-Old
Word games are one of the best ways to help develop your child's language skills. There are so many variations, and you can find one that works for your child's particular stage of development.
A few examples include:
- Pictionary (drawing a word) or Scrabble (finding words in the game) with younger children
- Snap! Junior version of Snap!, which includes more language challenges at older ages than the traditional game does
These games all have easy rules and quick gameplay times, making them perfect for family time after school or dinner on weeknights when everyone has had a long day. They also help build vocabulary skills, logic, and reasoning skills.
Playing With Your Child to Follow Instructions
Play peekaboo with your child and encourage them to guess where you are hiding before removing the cloth from their eyes. Then, when they say “Peekaboo!” they quickly reappear and shout “Aha!”; this will help develop language skills.
Make sure not to forget about all those wonderful open-ended toys at home! The simplest toys with only a few pieces can help your child learn and expand their vocabulary. Open-ended toys help language development because the child has to think more deeply and use their imagination.
Encourage your child to play pretend games by setting up scenes from books they've read or movies they've seen; inquire about what characters are doing in the background, ask them questions such as “Who is this?”, “What do you think they want?”,
It will also encourage children to talk more while playing with friends or siblings at home.
Reading with your child Beyond Bedtime Stories.
In the early years, reading is a great way to help your child understand language and using it. It's also an essential way for you as parents to have quality time together with your children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read aloud or tell stories for a minimum of 20 minutes each day. Reading will grow vocabulary and comprehension skills while boosting self-esteem by fostering a sense of accomplishment.
Tips To Build Language Skills through Books:
- Make books available everywhere – on shelves, tables, chairs, and windowsills – so kids can see them from anywhere they play and explore around the house.
- Read picture books out loud; listen to audiobooks.
- Be excited about reading!
- Encourage kids to draw pictures in the book or on paper while listening to stories.
- Read aloud together each night before bedtime.
Incorporating Reading as Part of Playtime
Incorporating reading into playtime reinforces the idea that books are fun and can stimulate imaginative thinking.
- Set up a “library” or special place in your home where you keep boxes of free materials for arts-and-crafts projects (e.g., construction paper, glue sticks), just like at school or public library libraries.
- Encourage children to put objects on shelves – those they will enjoy looking at and pretend to use while playing house by talking about them out loud with others who have come over as guests.
- If there is enough space outside your home, create an outdoor “reading nook” to encourage young kids' love of reading! If this seems too ambitious, consider a corner of the backyard or an area on your porch.
Interactive Reading with Your Child
Bring reading into playtime by doing it together with your child.
Do this as often as you can, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Read stories aloud to children and interactively read them aloud (e.g., ask questions about the story's characters or plot). It will help develop literacy skills in both of you.