Listen Think Talk Strategies to support language development 

Using the tips below is an excellent way to help your child become a confident talker and should increase the number and type of words they use.

At first you will need to put aside at 5-15 minutes per day with no distractions, i.e. turn off the television, music and telephones. Once you are well practiced in all the strategies you can try using commenting at other times. Eventually, commenting should be part of your every day language.

There is a lot to remember:

  • The first 4 strategies are quite easy so try these together first.
  • Then add the ‘waiting’.
  • Then add labelling and talking at your child’s level.
  • Then add match+1
  • Finally add commenting.

Starting from the bottom, click on the steps below to discover the 8 strategies to help your child’s talking.

Let your child choose the toys

Your child will choose toys that motivate and interest him – so he’ll be having fun and will want to communicate with you.
Don’t worry if he always chooses the same toy, it may just make him feel secure.
Make sure there are some toys to choose from, but not too many. Don’t steer them towards your favourites!!

Follow what your child wants to do with the toys

Your child may not do what you expect him to or what you want him to but just let him do it; unless he is going to hurt himself or someone else. All you need to do is keep following. You don’t need to join in, interfere, or give instructions.

Be face to face and show that I am listening

Communication is not just about talking but also about non verbal cues, such as facial expressions. Children need to see your face so that they can copy and learn when and how to use them. It also shows them that you are ready to listen. If your child is moving around, you need to move too so that you are always face to face – imagine that there is a magnet between you and the child.

Observe what the child is doing

While your child is playing, you just need to watch what they are doing and how they are doing it. It will be interesting to see how your child’s play and language develops over the weeks.

Wait for the child to start the interaction

You just need to wait for your child to

  • look at you
  • use a gesture
  • make a sound
  • use words

If you wait for them to start the communication, they will not feel pressured to talk and will feel relaxed. When a child is relaxed they are able to listen and learn new words and are more likely to talk.

Just waiting can feel uncomfortable and you may feel a bit strange at first but it is really important that you hold back and keep watching for that sign that they are ready for you. Make sure you are watching carefully, the sign is sometimes very subtle. It is very important that you don’t miss it – he may not give you another chance.

Labelling the child’s focus of attention

Once your child gives you the signal that he is ready to communicate, i.e. eye contact, gesture, pointing, sounds, words or sentences then you label whatever he is looking at or showing you or has in his hand or is doing at that moment.

You give him the names of the things that he is looking at or the name of the action he is doing. For example,

  • He gives you a car; you say, “ oh a red car” or “a big car”
  • He is building a tower; you say, “oh you’re building a tower”.

This is important for two reasons:

  • To learn language children need to hear the right words at the right time so they can attach the right word to the right object, action or person.
  • Children learn language by hearing things over and over again. Repetition of words is what they need. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself and don’t be worried that you are stating the obvious.

Talking at the child’s level match +1

Count how many words your child usually uses in one go and match that when you talk. It doesn’t matter if they don’t say anything this time; it’s the number of words they usually put together.

Example: Your child brings you a teddy

  • They don’t use words yet; you say “ahh” “teddy” whilst gesturing a cuddle
  • They usually use 1 word at a time; you say “teddy”.
  • They usually use 2 words at a time; you might say “big teddy”
  • They usually use 3 words at a time; you might say “big brown teddy”
  • They usually use short sentences; you might say “big brown teddy is wearing a bow!”

Children learn by copying language they hear. So they need good examples to copy so that they can make their sentences longer. With Match +1 you simply add a word to what your child has said.

For example: your child is playing with a ball;

  • Child says, “Ball”;         you say, “Big ball”.
  • Child says, “Big ball”;    you say, “Big, bouncy ball”.

Don’t worry if they don’t repeat it straight away, they will do so when they are ready. So keep using match +1.

Using more comments than questions

Why shouldn’t I ask questions?

  • Children know that questions demand an answer. This puts them under pressure to speak even if they know the answer.
  • If your child only hears what’s this? Who’s that? What are you doing? they are not hearing any names, action words or descriptions
  • A lot of questions stop or limit a conversation. Most questions require one word answers.

Why should I make comments?

  • Making comments takes away the pressure for your child to speak.
  • With comments your child is hearing words being repeated and new words added which is how children learn language.
  • Making a comment often leads to your child saying much more.

How do I turn my questions into comments?

This is difficult at first because we are all in the habit of asking children questions. Try answering the question yourself.

Example: you see a dog across the road.

Instead of “what’s that”; you say, “look it’s a dog”

Can I ever ask a question?

Yes you can. You can ask a question if you don’t know the answer.  If you know the answer you are just testing your child.

If your child is older, they will be able to answer why and how questions which can take the conversation further and can increase their learning.

Remember “questions test, comments teach”

See also

Coventry talk now - UseComments