our everyday life

The Role of Caregivers in the Speech Language Development of Children

by Stacey Chaloux, studioD

Learning to talk is one of the most dramatic changes you will see in your child, and you will be amazed at the new things he says each day. However, language development doesn't happen on its own. You play an important role in your child's speech and language development, just by talking and responding to him, since the day he was born.


According to Education.com, during the first few months of life, your baby's interactions with you will mostly be in response to your talking. Infants learn by imitating others, so encourage your baby to make consonant sounds like "Ma," "Ba," and "Da." When she makes a sound, repeat it back to her and wait for a response. You will be teaching her that conversation goes two ways and that you want to hear what she has to say. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association suggests that as she gets older and is talking more, repeat her words back to her to show that you understand.

Talk About Your Day

Research shows that how much and how often adults talk to infants and toddlers directly affects how they learn to talk, according to Education.com. From the beginning, speak to your child about what you are doing, where you are going or who you will see. Talk about daily routines that involve him such as dressing, diapering or bathing. When you go to the grocery store, talk about the different foods you see or discuss what you are doing as you prepare a meal. Your child will be expanding his vocabulary and will become accustomed to hearing the rhythm and patterns of language, simply by listening to you talk about your day.

Expand Sentences

Once your child begins saying words, encourage her to continue developing her language. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association suggests that you expand what she is saying as you repeat it back to her. If she says, "Want milk," you can respond by saying, "Oh, you want milk? Here is some milk in your pink cup." As you read books and she points to a picture, talk about what the picture represents or how it is used. Encourage her to "read" the book by retelling it or talking about the pictures. Try to ask open-ended questions that require her to make a choice, rather than questions that only have a single response. For instance, "Do you want apple juice or milk?" or "What song should we sing next?" Teach her some simple nursery rhymes and songs she can recite. According to KidsHealth, one of the most important things is to show her that you are listening when she strikes up a conversation, and acknowledge her responses, even if her responses are difficult to understand.

Build Vocabulary

As you are talking with your child, take advantage of opportunities to teach him new words and build his vocabulary. Outings to new and interesting places, such as the zoo or the aquarium offer him chances to learn new words and encounter new situations. Young children are often very curious about unfamiliar words and want to know what they mean, so offer an example of new words in context to help him understand. Encourage the use of descriptive words as you go through your daily routine. As you are shopping, say, "See those big, green round watermelons?" or while your child is playing, ask him to describe the tower he is building with his blocks.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images