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As parents we often assume the role of a teacher when interacting with our children. We direct their play, tell them what words to say, and place other demands on them. Of course it is true that parents are also teachers. But to teach children many skills, including how to talk, it’s important to take a step back and let your child be the leader.
Reduce your speech. 
It is absolutely important to expose your children to plenty of rich language – describe what you are doing, what your child is doing, the names of objects around you. But, by getting comfortable with the idea of not filling in any periods of silence when we play with our kids, we are giving them so many more opportunities to talk! 

Watch and listen for your child’s interests, then join in. 
Get down on your child’s level and observe what really seems to grab his or her attention. Children learn new concepts better when they are interested and engaged. You may be trying to show your child the right place to put the farm animals in a puzzle. Your child might be standing the puzzle pieces up and pretending to make animal sounds. Change the way you are playing! Stand up a puzzle piece and make animal sounds too. Your child will be excited and more likely to imitate some new sounds. 

Wait, wait, wait! 
Part of following your child’s lead means waiting. When reading a story together your child may point to a picture that captures his or her attention. If you rush in and tell them, “that’s a dog!”, you might have just taken away an opportunity for your child to name it on his or her own. Waiting. Is. Hard. We want to help our children and give them the answers. But by waiting, maybe counting to five in our head, you might be surprised to see that your child can say more words than you think! Parents often know what their children need before they even say it. We can anticipate their needs. But, for example, by waiting until your child says, “help”, while struggling to open a package, you are teaching them to communicate their needs! 

Let’s take a step back and see how much language we hear our children using if we practice following their lead!  

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist
Proud Member of The Story Box Family