Language Strategies for Parents

Language Strategies for Parents

By Evgenia Stefanaki,
Speech & Language Pathologist
Specializing in Feeding, Motor Speech, & Mouth Development/Function,
Active Orofacial Myofuctional Therapist,
Prompt Bridging Trained+ Clinician


+1 Routine

The +1 Routine is a strategy to increase your child’s utterance length.The goal is to model a phrase just one word longer in length than what your child says. This will help your child by exposing him to language just above his current level. You should repeat what your child says and add one word. They need to speak first and you will just expand their phrase.  

Types of Combinations

noun + verb (mama go)

action + object (kick ball)

action + location (go bed) 

  • 3:1 Rule

When you’re playing with your child it’s important for him/her to use language spontaneously. It’s really easy to ask your child questions all day. This limits his/her use of language. Instead, focus on saying a statement. 

The 3:1 Rule will help you reduce the number of questions you ask your child and increase the number of statements you make. 
Try to play intentionally with your child using the 3:1 Rule for a few minutes each day. Sit down with your child and his/her toys. While you play, make three comments for each question you ask.
Build the 3:1 Rule into your daily routine too. Make comments while you’re giving your child a bath, reading a goodnight book, or when you’re getting him/her dressed.

  • Verbal Routines 

“Ready, set, go!” It’s a verbal routine you probably use every day with your child, but do you know why your child can fill in the “go”? Verbal routines are words that become predictable because you say them the same way, in the same activity repeatedly.
Using  verbal  routines  over and  over  again  allows  your child predictable practice with a limited set of words. Soon you can omit the last word from a sequence and they can fill in the blank.
Common verbal routines include familiar songs and nursery rhymes.
They can also include a made up song you sing during an activity like

“Wash, wash, wash your hands.

Make them nice and clean!”
Verbal routines can include phrases that you use in many different settings such as counting “1, 2, 3” or “ready, set, go.”
Sometimes your verbal routines might be specific to your child! If you make up a silly saying while you build and crash blocks, say it over and over again. If your child likes a superhero, put his/her name in a rhyme about being a superhero.

  • Self-Talk 

The best way to improve your child’s language is to talk to your child! It sounds simple, and it is! One of the best ways to model language is self-talk.  
Self-talk is when a parent talks about what the parent is doing. You should use an animated and excited voice to make it really fun and engaging.  
Self-talk can be done throughout normal daily routines and many parents automatically use self talk. When using self talk, use short and simple language. Don’t use baby talk, but keep your sentences at a level your child understands.  
“What do we need? We need bananas. I found the bananas! I need four bananas. One, two, three, four. I’ll put them in the cart.”  
Children need to hear and be exposed to thousands and thousands of words. The more words they hear and are exposed to, the more words they will use!

  • Withholding

If your child has several words, but isn’t using them independently, try using the withholding strategy. Withholding is a simple strategy where you intentionally wait before you give him something until he communicates with you.

When your child points to what he wants, look at him and say “tell me what you want”. Then wait and see if your child responds. If he doesn’t respond you can give a verbal model, i.e. “say milk”. Once your child responds verbally, give him what he wants. This strategy only works if your child has demonstrated that he has that word in his vocabulary.
Let’s Practice! Get your  child  engaged in  an activity.Grab a laundry basket and a ball. Start shooting the ball into the basket. Be sillyand make it fun. Once your child is really excited and engaged, grab the ball and hold it. Withhold the ball until he asks for it saying “ball” or “my turn”.

  • Communication Temptations 

Your child has the opportunity to speak all day, but sometimes opportunity isn’t enough. Your child needs a motivating reason and reward in order to communicate! Communication Temptations set up the environment in a way that entices your child to make a request that results in a positive experience. With a highly desired activity there is a high likelihood she will ask for it again!  There are thousands of ways to set up communication temptations! You just need to find something highly motivating so the child enjoys it.

Let’s Try It! Start with bubbles. Get the type of bubbles with a twist lid that your child can’t open by herself. Hand her the bubbles but don’t anticipate her needs! Wait until she communicates to you that she needs the lid unscrewed. Blow some bubbles and then put the lid back on. Let her ask again. If she can’t blow the bubbles by herself, you’ve got another temptation! Wait until she asks for you to blow them. Remember to keep it fun and avoid letting her get frustrated! 
Other great activities: • wind up toys  • balloons  • snacks in pouches  • toys put in jars   

  • Repetitive Books & Songs 

Picking books to read with your young child is almost as important as reading them! Picking books with repetitive texts allows you to work on many language and pre-literacy skills. Sit with your child facing you so your child can watch your face and mouth. 
Books with repetitive texts provide a rhythm to speech much like music. They become easily memorized and children know what to expect next. This allows them to begin to use words to finish parts of the books.




Evgenia Stefanaki, SLP, has the private practice "All for Speech Center" in Nicosia and is a nationally certified and licensed Speech & Language Pathologist. She is also PROMPT© Bridging Trained clinician, she holds specialization in orofacial myofunctional therapy and she is specializing in feeding, motor speech & mouth development/function.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!


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