Updated: Jul 26
Learning language does not just happen during play. Take a moment to think about all the different routines and events your child experiences every day. From multiple diaper changes, to eating, to putting on a sock, to getting into the car and even turning on the light … every moment is a learning opportunity. Adding speech and language practice does not have to be “another item” on your already floor-length-to-do-list. Rather, it can be naturally incorporated into your pre-existing routines in ways that keep the interaction fun and enjoyable.
Here are some ways of adding language and establishing routines:
1. Talk about what is happening.
“Look, it’s raining!”
“Put the seatbelt on.”
“I hear an airplane.”
“You’re eating strawberries. Yummy, strawberries!”
By narrating the things around you and what your child is doing, you are putting language into context. Children must hear when and where words are used in order for him or her to start using them. This is called self or parallel talk. You could talk about anything such as the weather, an animal you spotted outside, what you are doing or how food tastes and feels like. Most importantly, talk about what you think your child is interested in. Observe what they are looking at or gravitating towards. Use a variety of words including nouns, verbs, and adjectives to build vocabulary.
2. Allow your child to be an active participant of the routine.
Routines are repetitive, follows a sequence of actions, and has a goal. Once a routine is established (i.e., you have done it over and over again), your child will know what has to be done. At this point, your child can even tell you what to do next. For example, the routine of putting on his/her coat might go like this – “arm in, other arm in, zip up.” After doing this routine many times, you could start the routine (put one arm in), then wait. Your child might suggest continuing the routine, or you could ask him or her what comes next. Waiting is a powerful tool because it teaches your child that they can do things too! It also creates opportunities for them to ask for help if they need it.
3. Use routine-specific phrases (or songs)
Saying the same phrase or using familiar songs/nursery rhymes while doing daily routines help make the language predictable. Your child will eventually anticipate the next word or phrase and fill in the blank if you pause or wait. Examples of this might be:
·Singing “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands. This is the way we wash our hands, after we go bathroom.” (To the tune of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’)
Singing a clean up song “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share”.
Saying “Light on”, every time you turn the light on in the room.
Listing off what you need to brush your teeth. “Time to brush teeth. We need a toothbrush and toothpaste.”
4. Be Creative
Routines can be anything that you and your child do regularly together. You can make routines out of baking cookies, doing chores, watering your plants, getting a band-aid or feeding your pet. As long as the routine is fun and interactive, it is a fantastic opportunity to add language.
Building new routines take time, but chances are you have many routines you are already doing! Remember, adding language to your day is not another to-do item. Instead, it is something you add to what you are already doing!