Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

November 2, 2016

Improving your child’s language: tips from an expert speech therapist

Stephanie Tolley, MS CCC-SLP
is a speech therapist at the Pineville office of Child and Family Development.

She often shares basic tips with parents and caregivers about how to improve a child’s communication skills:


  • Use short sentences: Even if comprehension is good, speaking in 2-5 word sentences may allow a child to focus on the words more easily.
  • Talk often: help a child learn by describing everyday activities as they happen (preparing meals, getting into the car, playing at the park)
  • Talk about what YOU are doing (“I’m fastening your seatbelt”, “I’m pushing the swing”)
  • Talk about what THE CHILD is doing (“Drinking juice”, “You are sitting in the back seat”)
  • Accept the child’s attempts to talk: Even if the words are not clear and sentences are not complete, respond or answer anway to reinforce the effort.
  • Expand on what the child says by repeating and adding more information: (“Mama eat”, you say “Mom eats pizza”)
  • Introduce new words: Talk about what you see in the environment, including naming people, objects and actions happening around you.
  • Expect the child to talk: If the child doesn’t seem to know the words, provide a model and encourage a response: (“Want juice?” and wait for child to say “Juice”)


  • Don’t ask a lot of questions, such as “What’s this?”; Children learn more easily when adults talk with them.  Instead, label and describe “You have apple juice”
  • Don’t ask a child to repeat; Rather than “Say book”, you can label and describe “Here is your train book”
  • Don’t anticipate the child’s needs; Create opportunities for child to request or describe on his own (“Juice please”, “Turn the page”)