Learning to talk is exciting and it starts right after birth. It should be fun for your child, family and friends, but is not necessarily easy. The process of talking involves attending, listening, thinking, understanding, wanting and needing to speak. It also involves taking turns, as well as being able to coordinate all the right muscles for speech.
Children learn to talk at different ages. Some children utter their first intelligible word before they are one year old, while others may not speak until they are over 2. Generally, however, most children start to talk by 18 months.
Children need to be encouraged to talk in the same way as they are encouraged to walk. And remember, children can understand what is being said long before they can use the words themselves.
The following are some ways in which you can help your child learn to talk. Be patient. The process is gradual and may seem slow. Words may be unclear and your child may stumble or hesitate.
- Talk to your child when you are playing together.
- Have fun with nursery rhymes and songs, especially those with actions.
- Encourage your child to listen to different sounds (e.g. animals, airplanes, the ring of the doorbell).
- Gain your child's attention when you talk to him. Encourage him to look at you or at the object that you are talking about.
- Encourage your child to communicate in other ways and not just through words. Use gestures and pictures.
- Give your child choices (e.g. "Do you want an orange or a banana?").
- Talk about things as they happen (e.g. when changing him, watching television, unpacking the shopping).
- Listen carefully and give your child time to finish whatever he is saying. Take turns to speak.
- Give your child opportunities to talk. Encourage your child by saying "Good talking" or "Good listening".
- Help your child to use more words by adding onto what he is saying. For example when he says “Ball!” You can add on with, “Yes! It’s a ball and we can play with it…”
- If your child says something incorrectly, say it back the correct way. However, do not force your child to repeat the word(s).
- Dedicate a special time with your child each day to play with toys and read picture books together.
- Don't expect too much too soon. Time will bring out the best in your child.
- Don't worry if he is not at exactly the same stage as your friend's child. Talking takes time - don't hurry him or her.
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