5 Ways to Help Your Child Communicate

by Lauren Ragins, MS, CF-SLP

It can be very stressful for a child with limited expressive language if they are constantly being asked questions or being told to “say” something by well meaning people in their environment. Here are 5 ways to help your child communicate effectively without putting pressure on them to produce words.

Play and Engage

  • Be at your child’s eye level and follow what he/she is doing
  • Give minimal directions
  • Avoid asking questions – let your child lead the communication!
  • Example: Child stacks blocks. Adult sits next to child and stacks blocks with the child.

Notice and Respond

  • Notice and respond to your child every time he/she is trying to tell you something. This includes sounds, grunts, actions, words, etc.
  • Responding to your child positively reinforces him/her to communicate more
  • Example: Child says, “Ahhh!” (blocks fall down); Adult says, “Crash! The blocks fell down!”

Take Turns

  • Take turns speaking with your child
  • Only say one thing after your child speaks, then wait for your child to respond
  • Example: Child says, “Block.” Adult says, “Blocks on.” Adult waits for child to respond.

Mirroring and Mapping

  • Your child does an action, you copy that action, then you speak the action
  • Example: Child stacks the blocks. Then adult stacks the blocks and says, “Build blocks.”


  • Add one or two words onto your child’s utterance
  • This provides your child realistic expectations of his/her next communicative attempts
  • Example: Child says, “Milk.” Adult says, “More milk.”

Children are more likely to learn language when they are engaging in an activity that they enjoy. Engaging in back and forth communicative exchanges through play or meaningful family activities allows the child to learn language in a natural and play-based context. It is important to simplify language to match the child’s language ability because he/she will be more likely to imitate and understand.  Above all, language acquisition should be a happy and rewarding  process for children.

Portions adapted from Roberts, Kaiser, Wolfe, Bryant, & Spidalieri, 2014 


Are you in the Chicagoland area and looking for help with your child’s communication skills? Contact us to schedule an evaluation or complimentary screening!



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