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Language strategies: Giving time

How does giving time work?

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

Dad holding out a toy for child, whilst child is saying 'more'. A picture of showing 10 seconds of time has past

When you play with your child, leave plenty of time and gaps for them to say something or to respond to your language.

Before you have the next turn in the conversation, try to wait longer than you usually would.

Count to 10 in your head before you say something else.

Don’t worry if it feels like a very long pause!

Keep your attention and focus on what your child is doing to maintain your shared activity.

Before ‘jumping in’ with an answer, give a few extra moments to see if your child wants to respond.

Your child may respond with looking, using gesture, making a vocalisation or trying to say a word.

A face looking confused with a question mark beside itWhy use this strategy?

  • Children with language difficulties need more time to respond to questions or comments.
  • Your child may need more time to process what has been said, to find the right words to respond, or both!
  • Children will often know the answer and they are more likely to communicate if they have a little more time to respond before someone speaks again.
  • Giving time helps children to understand it is their turn to communicate, if they want to.

Top tip

Leaving a longer pause can help to reduce the demands on your child’s language system and create a relaxed and unhurried talking situation.

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.

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. 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.

Resource number: SL29

Resource Type: Article

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