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Early language strategies

There are lots of simple strategies that you can use to help support your child’s talking. Here are some examples:

Encourage listening and time to talk

Try to find quiet time to talk with your child without the TV on.

How it helps

This will give you and your child chance to talk and listen to each other.

Two faces looking at each other an arrow points from one person's eye to the other to suggest eye contact

Get to where your child can see you!

Try getting down on the floor and sitting or lying opposite your child when you are playing or talking to them.

How it helps

You can make eye-contact with them and they can see your mouth so know how you can form sounds and words.

Two people talking about a big colourful piece of paper


Use gestures and actions when you are talking.

Encourage your child to use gesture too.

How it helps

This helps your child understand what you are saying.

This helps your child get their message across.

Smiling face with a speech bubble containing a thumbs up

Specific praise

Praise your child.

This can be spoken, by telling them what they have done well, for example:

  • “Good sharing”
  • “Well done for tidying up”

or physical, by using hugs, kisses, high fives, smiles.

How it helps

This way they will know what you are pleased with so will do it again in future.

It is much better to praise good behaviour than to punish bad behaviour.

A speech bubble saying 'running'

Commenting or labelling

Talk to your child using words and sentences which they can copy.

How it helps

Children learn language by listening to people talking.

a speech bubble saying ‘yes, big dog’


Use sentences which are slightly longer than ones your child normally uses, for example, if they say 1 word, model 2 words together.

How it helps

This will help your child use longer sentences themselves.

Speech bubble saying 'Ou''Mouse. It's a mouse'


Praise any attempt at a word (even if it doesn’t sound like the real word). Give praise for it and then repeat the word for them clearly.

How it helps

This will help your child learn how to say words without you having to correct them.

A group of people singing

Singing, rhythm and rhymes

Sing songs with your child. Children love to sing the same songs over and over again.

Tap out rhythms of songs and words, for example, with clothes pegs or wooden spoons and pans.

How it helps

This helps develop their early sound skills which are needed for reading and writing.

Words 'Jump, Jump, Jump'


Say it again and again. Repeat the same words or phrases during an activity.

How it helps

Children need to hear a word lots of time before they can begin to use it in their own talking.

A face looking confused with a question mark beside it

Reduce questions

Try talking to your child without asking questions, use some of the other ideas listed here instead.

How it helps

If we ask children too many questions they can get fed up and feel like they are always being ‘tested’.

A person pointing to one of three different shapes to show they are choosing

Give choices

Offer your child a choice (even if you know what they will choose) for example, “would you like juice or milk?”

How it helps

This helps them learn words and learn how to make choices. They learn that they can have some control over what happens.

Clock face

Talk slowly and allow time to talk

Think about how fast you talk and try to slow down. Give your child lots of time to respond to what you have said.

How it helps

Children often find it hard to listen and understand what is being said. Talking slowly will make it easier to understand you.

Additional resources and information

These videos are part of the Weekend Words series and explain and demonstrate the following language strategies:

Reducing the number of questions you ask:

Giving choices

Extending language

Building vocabulary using books

Free resources and services that can help with understanding what to look out for, how to get support and even some simple ways you can help your child at home: Speech and Language UK

Activities for parents, children and young people to improve their language, literacy and communication skills from home: Words For Life

An article on: Helping Your Child to Talk

Helping you help children to communicate: The Hanen Centre

The Giving Voice campaign aims to ‘give voice’ to people with speech, language and communication needs: Giving Voices 

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL25

Resource Type: Article

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