The most important thing you can do is talk all the time. Referring to things by their proper names and chatting to your little one will help introduce him to words even before he’s anywhere near speaking himself.
Singing is also great and if your baby or toddler likes to hear your voice, try singing about everyday things you’re doing and making up rhymes. Encourage your baby to join in or make noise to the words if he’s not talking yet. When he’s a little older give him prompts and encouragement to remember and sing words along with you.
Vary your vocabulary
Try to use different ways of saying the same thing to encourage your little one to hear and understand different words and phrases. Mixing up ‘very good’, ‘extremely nice’, ‘absolutely great’ and ‘really super’ for example, introduces extra words to get across the same sentiment.
Introduce your baby to books as early as possible. Picture books, soft fabric books, bath books and big cardboard-paged books are all ideal for young babies. Before they can pay attention to stories, point to pictures on the pages and say what they are out loud.
As your baby gets older, reading aloud is vital to introduce more words that you and your little one might not come across in your day-to-day life. Books aimed at toddlers and young children take this into account and can impart plenty of new vocab in a simple way that is fun to read.
Try making voices and acting out scenes, or even just the sounds of animals referred to in the book to bring the words to life.
Make sure you label anything and everything. Show your tot what you’re talking about, point to things and say their name and don’t underestimate how much will go in. At this age, children’s memories are incredible and they’re able to take in and recall far more than adults can.
Avoid baby talk
Talk to your baby using normal speech as much as possible rather than baby talk. This is so that when he mimics you, he’s learning new vocab and how to form real words rather than incoherent sounds.
When your child’s a little older you can encourage a wider variety of words. Try to:
Make language a game
Make the most of interactive toys and games that encourage object recognition and speech. Games such as ‘I Spy’ and ‘This little piggy’ that involve word play and description are ideal and there are hundreds of interactive toys that help children learn letters, words and phrases (and even in more than one language if you’re very ambitious!).
Talking telephones, alphabet blocks and puzzles all help your child develop the building blocks of language.
Ask your child questions
Keep your child involved in his own learning. Ask questions throughout the day about what he can see and what things look like and get him to use description to help grow his bank of adjectives.
This is key when you’re outside of the home as you’ll see more interesting scenes and objects that will allow more complicated description. Help your child to find the right words and don’t be afraid to suggest words to help him out if he can’t find the right one.
Praise his attempts and use positive reinforcement to ensure he doesn’t feel bad when he can’t find the right word
At the end of the day, go back through what you’ve done and ask him to tell you about it and say what he liked best.
TV and educational DVDs
Some child development experts recommend babies and toddlers don’t watch TV until they’re two, but generally TV programmes made for the under fives are specifically designed to be educational so over this age, a little TV can be beneficial.
But do make sure the programmes are suitable for your child’s age and stage, keep TV watching short and interspersed with plenty of real-life learning and supervise and talk to your child about what the programme has taught him.