The viral video of a conversation between a father and his young child that has delighted viewers highlights 10 key conversation strategies speech-language pathologists routinely share with families. The interaction in the video demonstrates key skills needed for speech, language, and communication development.
SLPs offer these 10 tips to help parents enhance conversational interactions with their children:
- Take turns when talking. Start conversations with children from birth. Pause after you finish talking to signal it’s the child’s turn to communicate. This gives your child a chance to respond and initiate conversation.
- Respond to the content and intent of a child’s vocalizations. Respond to any attempts at conversation, including cooing and babbling.
- Follow the child’s lead to establish joint attention. Talk about what the child sees and does.
- Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication. Use meaningful gestures when you talk. And respond to your child’s gestures, like pointing.
- Encourage communication interactions when your child watches TV or uses digital devices. Talk about what is happening and tell stories.
- Use different types of communication. Appropriate use of greetings, comments, and asking and answering questions, all help a child learn that talking serves different purposes.
- Use “child-directed speech,” also known as “motherese” and “fatherese.” Parents (and older siblings too!) naturally use exaggeration, higher pitch, and relatively simple grammar and vocabulary when they talk to young children. The melodic pitch, repetitions, and questions encourage attentive interactions. But don’t simplify all talk. Model more complex language and new vocabulary words to build speech, language, and conversational skills.
- Use expansions. Repeat what your child says and add to it.
- Show your excitement when your child vocalizes or uses words. A positive, engaging interaction creates the context for enhancing conversation skills.
- Practice conversations in multiple languages. If your child is being raised in a multilingual home, create conversational opportunities in all languages. Use the language or languages you feel comfortable using.
The video shows interactions using spoken language. These tips are also applicable in other language modalities, such as sign language.
A speech-language pathologist can help if you have concerns about your child’s speech, language, or conversation skills. See an audiologist if you have concerns about your child’s hearing.
Diane Paul, PhD, CCC-SLP, is director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology for ASHA. firstname.lastname@example.org