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5 Ways to Support... Single Words

If your child is over 1 and doesn't yet have any, or many. single words then try some of the strategies below to prompt and encourage them to start to use words to communicate with you.

1. Comment more, question less.

As adults we have a tendency to ask out children a lot of questions during play in an attempt to elicit words and language; "What is this?", "What colour is it", "What happened"... While this can elicit language in children who already have it, it's not always beneficial in encouraging language for children who may be struggling. Instead, comment lots during play to 'feed' language to your child and teach them words and phrases related to their play with the aim of them using this later on.

2. Model single words

If your child is not yet using many, or any, words, we need to model language at a level which they can understanding and imitate (even if their understanding is beyond the single word level). When commenting and labelling items during play and routines use single words as this gives your child a clear language model which they will most easily be able to repeat or imitate.

3. Pause/wait

When labelling toys/items for your child, especially when they are making a request or want the item, pause or wait for them to attempt the word. They may not attempt the word initially, but they may vocalise, then make an attempt at the word, and then achieve a close approximation of the word. Pausing and waiting encourages children to communicate more, often imitating the language they have heard, particularly if this was a clear, single word model.

4. Offer choices

Offer choices to your child, labelling each item with a single word (as above) while showing them each item. They will need you to communicate with you which item them would like and while initially they will likely reach or point, as their language develops this is a great opportunity for them to try and attempt the word(s) modelled.

5. Sentence completion

Pausing/stopping before the end of a sentence in familiar activities or during familiar songs and books encourages your child to use a single word to complete the sentence without directly prompting them to 'say it'. Some examples include; 'Ready, steady... (go)', 'Old MacDonald had a...', 'We're going on a bear...'.

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