How to Teach a Child to Speak and Improve His Vocabulary

I was once asked how to improve the vocabulary of a 1-year old kid.  I am now responding with tips and tools of how to effectively teach a child to speak and improve his vocabulary.  We know that kids’ developmental milestones happen in different pace but experts can somehow identify normal age range when a particular functional skill should be happening.  The general age and time for each milestone is what the doctors use to determine if a child may need extra help.  To know if your child is reaching the milestones in speech and language development, make use of the interactive checklist

Your child may or may not need professional help in speech and language development but he sure needs every support he can get from you and everyone else in the house where he spends majority of his time.  Here are some tools and tips I would like to share that would surely teach a baby to talk and greatly improve his vocabulary as he grows.

An older brother is talking to his baby brother, while the latter listens intently.
An older brother is talking to his baby brother, while the latter listens intently.

Talk to the child as often as possible.  Talking to your baby speeds up the learning process.  Speak to him at bath time, meal time, play time or at any opportune time of the day.  The more you talk the more your baby will try to talk.  It’s always an advantage when a child has older siblings and other people that often talk to him. Make sure you and others talk straight and avoid baby-talks and bad words.  Remember that children learn though modeling; he emulates what and how he hears.  

Establish eye contact and articulate clearly.  When you communicate with your child, look at him in the face and eyes and let him look at you to establish connection and eye contact.  Children learn a lot from listening and from your facial expressions as well.  If you notice that your baby or toddler is looking intently at your lips while you talk, grab the opportunity to emphasize lip movement.  Allow him to touch your lips as you talk if it pleases him.  This is a way for some children to acquire articulation skills. 

Establish object-word or action-word association. For the words to become meaningful, the child should be able to associate it with objects or actions.  You may start by labeling or introducing the names of every object or every part of a whole.  You may point to each part of the body every time you bathe him or repeatedly say “water” as you turn on the faucet or offer him to drink.  Point to the different furniture and appliance in the house then repeatedly say how it is called.  Tell him how each action or activity is called until the action-word association is established.   Repeatedly say the word dance as you show him how it is done or ask him to eat as you offer him food.  Do note that this technique is enhanced by consistency and repetitions.  From this point, you may proceed to explain concepts such as up vs. down, hot vs. cold, etc.

Listen to your child and build his confidence. Never monopolize a conversation. Always give opportunity for a child to be heard, this will encourage him to talk and learn at an early age that conversation is a two-way traffic. Do not emphasize wrong pronunciation; this is like dipping from his bucket of confidence. He will be able to correctly utter the word eventually as he attempts to say it over and over and as he consistently hears the proper way of saying it.

Provide a stimulating environment to assist language development. Surround your child with colorful pictures and educational charts, posters or wall stickers and make him listen to joyful music to stimulate brain activity and encourage him to talk. The colorful pictures and educational charts serve as points of conversation and provide opportunities for exploration and learning while music offers a fun opportunity to learn new words and concepts through repetitions, rhythm and rhyme. The child becomes more eager to learn and more responsive with the use of proper stimulating tools.

Promote interaction and provide educational toys and tools. This technique is being treated separately from the first one (Talk to the child as often as possible) to emphasize other parent-child interactions that are important in language development and name some tools that parents can use. To begin with, parents should turn-off that TV and initiate worthwhile interactions with the child. Play games with flash cards and offer fun learning experience to the child. Flash cards are not only for familiarizing with letters and numbers. Many flash cards come with pictures of colorful shapes, vegetables, animals and places. You may also want to try the U-Play Mat; it’s a speech and language development system created by a pediatrician and speech therapist

Read aloud to your child while he looks at the illustrated pages of the book. Read with excitement and point to the pictures as you name them. You may pose questions related to the story or to the picture to initiate interaction. This will help him understand the story, widen his vocabulary and develop his love for reading. Teach him to use the telephone, sing and dance with him, role-play with him and more. Just remember to inject playfulness in every interaction to establish connection and elicit desire to communicate. The more interactions you have with your child, the faster the language and other skills will develop, the happier is the child and the stronger the bond between parent and child becomes.

Keep him healthy. A healthy child is alert and positively responds to every learning opportunity. Give him a balanced diet and offer food of varied texture to help him exercise his mouth muscles. Routine check ups that include hearing tests will either give you peace of mind that your child is perfectly well or will facilitate early detection of hearing problems that can immediately be acted upon to minimize consequential impact on speech and other skills development.

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gramarye profile image

gramarye 5 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

Good hub - very worthwhile advice!

Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 5 years ago from London

A great hub. I agree that early interaction is vital for intellectual development. Often people don't realise this.

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