How to Increase Your Child’s Language Development

It’s understood that children hear and watch their parents’ every move. But what if you found out that you don’t have to talk very much at all to teach your child. In fact, an MIT study suggests that parents should perhaps talk less and listen more.1

“The number of adult words didn’t seem to matter at all for brain function. What mattered was the number of conversational turns.”1 It makes sense. Imagine you go to a high-level class that you do not have prerequisites for and the professor is talking about something that you do not know about and using words that you don’t understand. How much learning can really come from that? Not much because of the level of engagement. 

“You can talk to a child until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not engaging with the child and having a conversational duet about what the child is interested in, you’re not going to give the child the language processing skills that they need,” said Golinkoff.1

The following are some tips and techniques that can be used to engage in conversation with the child. 

  • “Get down on the child’s level.
  • Tune in and listen to what the child says. If the child does not speak yet, tune into what they are doing or pointing to and use these moments to talk with them.
  • Take turns talking. If the child doesn’t have language yet, that may mean you are talking and the child is communicating in nonverbal ways, such as through gestures, looks, smiles, babbles, and word approximations (children’s attempts at words).
  • Talk about what the child is doing, what the child is looking at, or what the child is interested in.
  • Ask questions that relate to the child’s experiences or interests.
  • Add words or questions to what the child says or does and model new language.
  • Give the child enough time to respond. For children who do not have language yet, this may be a nonverbal response, like a gesture or a look.
  • Stay tuned in to the child’s facial and body expressions to make sure they are engaged.”2

The goal is to be engaged with the child in a conversation that is of their interest so that they can learn language skills and be able to expand their vocabulary. While the deep conversations grow their language skills, relationships are also being strengthened tremendously with the amount of engaging and intimate interaction. 


1.Hardach, S. (n.d.). How you talk to your child changes their brain. Retrieved from


3. ACPeds article on Language in the Toddler and Preschool Years

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