General Strategies

Learning language begins at birth and you are your child’s best teacher. The way you interact and talk with your child will make all the difference in their language learning. Encourage language development by talking, reading, singing and playing every day. Use gestures such as pointing to help them understand what you are describing.

Think “E-I-E-I-O” to communicate with a child

Explore Together

  • Be face to face while you play, sing, read and talk.
  • Name and describe things you see and actions you do together.
  • Repeat words often: “shoe OFF, sock OFF, shirt OFF”.

Imitate and Interpret

  • Imitate: copy what a child says and does all day, every day.
  • Interpret: when a child points, smiles, makes sounds or uses words, say what you think he means.

Expand and Extend

  • Expand on what a child says by adding 1 or 2 words.  Child: “tat” You: “Big cat. Cat running.”
  • Extend with a new idea.  Child: “tat” You: “The cat has claws to climb the tree.”

Include Choices

  • Use simple questions instead of Yes or No questions. You: “Do you want to wear a striped shirt or plain shirt?”

Observe, Wait and Follow a child’s lead

  • Take turns listening and talking.
  • Watch, wait and get interested in a child.
  • Let them take the lead when playing, reading and talking together.


Talk with the child every day, so he/she can Talk by 2 and Beyond!



Research shows children with more than 6 gestures by 12 months go on to have a larger vocabulary at 18 months, 24 months and even at 3 years.

Use gestures when talking, singing and playing. Use your hands and body to describe actions, to point things out and to act out words (i.e. pretending to eat, smelling a flower). Have fun and be creative!

Remember to say the word when you or your child uses the gesture!



“Play” is any activity that a child enjoys. It does not have to be an expensive toy. Play can be wrestling with cushions, pretending an empty box is a bed or sleeping out in a tent. It can even be having fun with a book!

What does play have to do with language development?

  • Play usually involves listening and talking about what is happening, an important activity for language development.
  • Play usually involves a lot of repetition, which is what a child needs to learn.
  • Play helps a child develop skills which are important for communication (taking turns, using eye contact, body language, gestures).
  • Play involves using several senses (e.g. the child sees the ball, then, touches it when it is caught).

What to do …

  • Use toys, games, or objects that a child is interested in.
  • Follow a child’s lead: if they prefer to make a cape or tent out of a blanket, fine!
  • Talk about what is happening during play.