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Higher level language strategies for children with more language

Language difficulties are nobody’s fault, but changing the way you talk can really help your child.

Here are some strategies.

Leave gaps for your child to finish the sentence

The adult says a sentence and leaves it unfinished, or with a gap, for the child to fill in the missing word. For example:

  • when looking at a book or reading a story, “and then Goldilocks sat on …” (baby bear’s chair)
  • when retelling an event “and after Nanan’s house we went to the …” (park)

This strategy cues the child in to answer, rather than using a direct question. It can feel less pressured than a direct question. You and your child are working together to talk about an event or story.

Ask open ended questions

Some questions only require a one word answer and are not very useful for developing language and conversation. For example:

  • ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions, such as ‘Did you have apples for snack?’
  • ‘What’s that?’ questions

The best kind of questions, that can trigger off longer discussions or conversations, are open ended questions. Try asking questions using ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ to get conversations going more!

Add comments to questions

Adding comments to questions can take the pressure off, and create a more relaxed conversational style of interacting. Instead of:

  • ‘What’s that?’… try ‘I wonder what that is?’
  • ‘How many cars are there?’… try ‘I wonder how many cars there are in that picture?’
  • ‘Why is the baby crying?’… try ‘Look at the baby crying… I wonder what’s wrong?’

Try comments that ‘invite’ them in , rather than ‘test’ them. For example:

  • ‘Shall we see what happens when we do this? What do you think?’
  • ‘I’m thinking that might be a … (you get it wrong)… what do you think?’
  • ‘Would you help me count these bricks as we put them away?’

Ask questions to talk about past, future and imaginary experiences

When playing with toys, draw the child past experiences, feelings, future plans and even wishes into the conversations. Try to move them on from just talking about the ‘here and now’. For example:

  • ‘Can you remember when we went to the farm? We saw that funny goat and… (child talks) … and you loved the rabbits, but you didn’t like the …‘

Talk about past experiences using those ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ questions.

Additional resources and information

Your first stop for information on children’s communication. Here you can find information to help you understand and support children and young people’s speech, language and communication: Talking Point

Visit the online hub of free advice and resources for parents with children facing difficulties in speaking and understanding language: I Can

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.

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily 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 you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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