7 Ways to Help Your Child's Language Development

From singing and reading to engaging in dramatic play, there are many different ways you can help with your child's language development.

woman talking to child holding hands
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Language is universal. So it's no wonder that, as a parent, you want to do everything you can to encourage and enhance your kid's language skills. Helping your child's language development sets them on the path to meeting their communication milestones. "Communication milestones are skills that children, on average, are expected to have by a certain age. These milestones build on one another and help us know if a child's development is on track," Adena Dacy, MS, CCC-SL, told the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

But how can you encourage (and improve) your child's linguistic skills? What should you be doing every day to aid in the development of their language and speech? Here's how you can help your child at every age and stage.

Ways to Encourage Language Development in Babies

Even though you don't understand them quite yet, every little coo is your baby communicating. Although it may seem small, these are the beginning of your baby's language development.

Sing to your baby—and play music often

Music makes a difference. Whether it's listening to their favorite Cocomelon songs or singing nursery rhymes all day long, research supports a connection between an enriched musical environment in infancy promotes the development of communication skills. So keep those tunes on when you're driving in the car or dancing around the kitchen with your kiddo cooking.

Talk to your baby while including gestures and other noises

Before babies can even begin forming words, they recognize changes in pitch, volume, and other elements of communication. They also start to make the connection between crying and their caretaker coming to the rescue.

Licensed speech-language therapist Rachel Cortese explained to the Child Mind Institute that "babies begin to notice the reciprocal relationship between vocalization and getting their needs met. This encourages them to begin intentionally communicating their needs, through things like pointing and body language, and making more sounds." So even though your baby isn't able to engage in the conversation using words yet, they are paying attention to everything that you do and will use that as the base for developing their communication skills.

Ways to Encourage Language Development in Toddlers

Now that your baby has hit toddlerhood, how they communicate is starting to change. However, it hardly means that their language development has come to an end. Between 18-months and 2 years your toddler may meet several communication milestones, like being able to say 10 to 50 different words, follow simple directions, and use simple two-word phrases.

Read, frequently and often

Countless studies show the relationship between reading and strong language development. No matter how young they are, reading to your child helps with their letter and word recognition as well as expanding their vocabulary. Many children's books inspire their imagination and use words and descriptions that wouldn't typically come up during regular conversations.


There are two main ways you can work narrating into your everyday interactions with your toddler. The first is to talk about what you are doing. "I am folding the laundry," for example. Or "I am making a tasty snack for you." The second is talking about what your child is doing. Like, "you are using the blocks to build" or "you are driving the car and moving its wheels. It is a green car." Describing what you are doing or what you see your child doing helps them turn words into phrases and eventually sentences.

Preschool and Beyond: Helping Kids Enhance Their Language Skills

Now that your little one is getting to be school age, the ways you can support their language and communication skills are changing. While they'll be working on this in school, there are a few things you can do at home to help as well.

Dramatic play

Playing pretend isn't only great for the imagination, it will also help enhance your kiddo's language skills. Engaging in dramatic play is a great way to encourage your child to create storylines, plots, characters, and emotions—all of which will help with increasing vocabulary and putting together phrases and sentences.

Use open-ended questions

Don't box your child in by asking just yes or no questions. Ask questions that leave room for explanation. Sometimes you might be surprised at the tangent they end up on, creating an entirely different conversation.

Don't correct or criticize

Just like everything else we learn in life, there will be a learning curve with your child's language development. If their tenses, verbs, or pronunciation are off, don't jump to correct or criticize them. They may interpret this feedback negatively and be reluctant to keep trying—or they'll feel embarrassed. Instead, try repeating the sentence back with the corrected verbiage.

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