Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! Y’all it took me forever to sit down and write this post! Has everyone else felt crazy-busy since Thanksgiving? Anyways, I finally have another great strategy for you to help get your little one talking, and this is really two strategies in one!
Today’s post is about something we SLPs refer to as self-talk and parallel-talk. I almost skipped this post because these are not exactly ground-breaking strategies! You probably use these at times without realizing it; however they are basics for language development. And the way I have you do them will probably be a little different than how you’ve been using them.
So let’s start with self-talk. Self-talk is basically narrating what you’re doing while you’re doing it. So if you’re cutting vegetables you might say “Mommy’s cutting vegetables. (PAUSE) Cut cut. (PAUSE) Mommy cut.”
When using self-talk, you should try to model the language you would want your child to use. So if your child is under 12 months, you would want to use lots of single words, with a few two-word phrases. Once your child is using a few different single words independently and consistently, you would want to use more two-word phrases as you narrate. And if your child is 2-3 years old and communicating verbally, you would be narrating using mostly 2-4 word phrases depending on your child’s expressive language skills.
Self-talk works best when your child’s attention is on you or what you’re doing. So moments like when you’re making his/her snack, getting your little one dressed, or pulling out Christmas decorations are all great opportunities for self-talk as long as your little one is interested in what you’re doing. Self-talk does not work when your child is looking through books while you throw in a load of laundry.
Let’s move on to parallel talk. Parallel talk is narrating what your child is doing. The key word here is narrating. So you’re not suggesting the child do anything new or different, you’re just stating what they’re doing. So if your 12 month Old is rolling a dump truck while you watch, “Dump truck. (PAUSE) Vrrrrm. Dump truck. (PAUSE) Push. (Pause) Push dump truck”
Again, narrate using single words, phrases, and sentences that are at or slightly longer what your child’s currently using. Limiting phrase length and pausing appropriately are the most challenging parts of this. They’re both important though!
By speaking in short, simple phrases, you’re showing your little one that it is okay to speak in just a single word or a couple of words. This is especially key for those babies and young toddlers that use lots of jargon (babbling with inflection). Jargon is often part of typical development, and is a result of children trying to speak like us, but not yet having the expressive vocabulary to do so. So by simplifying your sentences to one or 2 words, you’re making it easier for your little one to imitate your language.
Pauses are also important because they give your child an opportunity to join the conversation by vocalizing or verbalizing. We’ll get more into pausing appropriately and using a wait time next week. For now just make sure you’re doing a pause between phrases/sentences.
If you’re doing it correctly, it should feel very slow to you! But for our babies and toddlers who are just learning language, it helps them take in what you’re saying.
So this week’s challenge: pick one daily routine you and your little one do together (dressing, eating breakfast, playing, feeding the dog, getting in and out of the car, etc) and try to narrate it EVERY DAY using self talk and parallel talk. It is totally acceptable to do the same routine as last week or to pick a new one. And if you feel like you get the hang of it quickly, you can use these strategies during another routine too- this is not the kind of thing you can overdo, as long as you’re pausing so your little one has a chance to respond or imitate.
Let me know how this works for you by leaving a comment or liking this post! I’ll try to have another language-building strategy for you Monday!