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Early strategies to develop spoken language skills

Clock face

Extra time

Allow your child extra time to formulate responses and respond.


Reduce sentence length and slow down

Use short sentences and slow down your own rate of speech to encourage your child to speak more slowly.


Visual support

When chatting with your child, referring to pictures or objects related to the conversation topic will help them to learn and remember new words. Use sign and gesture to support your spoken language.

Sun showing it is here and now

Here and now

Try to relate things to the ‘here and now’ and your child’s own experiences. Language skills often improve when the child is talking about something that relates to them.

arrow to show to lengthen a sentence


Extend sentences, for example if your child says “dog tail”, you say, “yes, it’s a big dog wagging it’s tail.”

speech buuble with blue tick and arrows pointing down from the bubble to the ground


Remodel sentences that include errors for example, if your child says, “The cat catched the mouse”, you say, “Yes, the cat caught the mouse”.

arrow pointing to end of a line to show finishing or complete

Sentence completion

Start the sentence for your child to finish, for example, “The child is crying because…”

A number line with arrows pointing to one and two to suggest a sequence


Encourage clear sequencing of ideas by repeating back part of the story. For example, “So you went to the beach, but it was raining and then…?”

speech bubble with arrows pointing to paper


Repeat both your own sentences and new vocabulary as well as repeating your child’s grammatically correct sentences.

Adult talking

Comment or label

Instead of asking too many questions, comment on what your child is doing such as “We’re going up the stairs” so that they hear a good model of language.

Choice of white and red ball

Give choices

Offer your child a choice, even if you know what they will choose such as “Would you like juice or milk?”

Create opportunities

Create opportunities for talking. For example, looking at a book together or sharing an activity.

A face with musical notes coming from their mouth to show singing

Singing, rhythm and rhyme

Sing songs repeatedly with your child. Tap out rhythms of songs and words, for example, with wooden spoons and pans.

Writing on paper


Do not expect a child to write a longer sentence than they would say. For example, if they do not say “because” when explaining they are unlikely to use it in written work.

Additional resources and information

For parents:

If your child is having challenges with talking and understanding words, there are some simple ways you can help your child at home: Speech and Language UK

For teaching staff:

A SWAY training module on strategies for supporting children’s spoken language. Presented by Alice Woods (Speech and Language Therapist).

Information and resources to help you support children who struggle with talking and understanding words: Speech and Language UK

Contact us

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

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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.

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