Speech and language delays are common amongst pre-school and young children, some children will catch up without intervention but some may need a little extra help to reach their milestones. Early Intervention is an approach which consists of a variety of strategies Speech and Language Therapist’s, Teachers and Parents can use to help support the speech and language development of their children ready for entry into school.

Developing Language through play

Play is an important part of your child’s speech, language and communication development. Children are able to explore the world around them through play and understand more about how things work around them. When playing with your child ensure the play is child-lead, follow the lead of your child in activities which they are interested in doing. Sit for a moment and observe what your child is doing and then try to follow their lead as this reinforces the idea of letting your child lead.

Play activities

  1. Exploratory Play – Collect a variety of different objects and materials and place them in a bag. Materials can vary in size, shape and texture. Encourage your child to reach into the bag, feel around and pull out an object. Talk about the object with your child and explore using it, make the activity fun by banging objects together or hiding them under each other encouraging your child to find them.
  2. Self-pretend Play – Find a variety of everyday objects that you and your child use. This could include cups, spoons, dishes, brushes, flannels, items of clothing. Use these to pretend to carry out the appropriate action with your child i.e. brush your hair, drink from the cup. Encourage your child to copy you.
  3. Symbolic Play – Symbolic play is when a child uses one thing to represent something else. Your child might have a building block, and pretend it is a phone or something to eat. First you and your child can act out everyday situations then introduce toys to represent the real object. Children need to experience symbolic play, because it helps them to understand that something can represent something else.

There are lots of types of play that you can engage your child in with but it is important to remember that how you interact with your child during this play as well as day to day is going to help develop their speech, language and communication skills.  Listed below are some key strategies you can use during play as well as daily activities to help develop your child’s speech and language development.



Children learn new words and sounds by listening to those around them it is therefore important to ensure they are hearing good models of those words and sounds.

  • When you are talking to your child point to or hold the objects in front of them that you are talking about so they can make the link between the word and the object.
  • Repeat what your child says but try to use a correctly structured sentence, if their sounds are not clear repeat these back clearly also.
  • When modelling language for your child you can add on a word or two to expand their language.
  • Use short simple sentences which are 2 or 3 words longer than the child would use themselves.

Repeating also acknowledges that you have understood what the child has communicated.

Examples of modelling

Child says: bar (for car)

Adult says: yes, that’s a car

To encourage longer sentences

Child says: Daddy’s tup

Adult says: Yes daddy’s cup. Daddy’s cup is big


Whilst following your child’s lead label the objects they are looking at or holding. By labelling/naming the object you are helping the child relate this verbal label to the real object. Lots of repetition of the label will help to reinforce this with your child and make this connection stronger it will also provide a good model for them to imitate.  If your child does not give you much eye contact you can try bringing the object they are interested in up to your face and then label/name the word.



Questions are important to develop a child’s understanding but may not always be helpful if they do not relate to your child’s train of thought as they may find it difficult to listen to unrelated information. It is important to try and monitor the number of questions you use when trying to develop your child’s language. During play and day to day interactions lots of questions and directions mean that the adult is leading not the child.

  • When asking your child questions keep them simple and relate them to what the child is doing or looking at
  • Give the child plenty of time to answer your question as they need time to plan what they are going to say. As well as asking questions you can also comment on what your child is doing by either explaining what your child is doing or expanding on their sentences by adding a few extra words.


Choice Making

Choices are an excellent way to encourage your child to communicate and use language to tell you what they want/need.

E.g. “Do you want milk or water?”

By offering a choice you are showing your child how the words sound, you are modelling the language for them and giving them the opportunity to communicate. You can use any activity to practice choices including choosing between snacks, books, DVD’s, toys and activities. If your child isn’t using sounds are words yet encourage them to point to what they want and then label the word for them again to reinforce the model.


Activities for Early Intervention

The fantastic thing about language development is that it can happen at any time and in any place. It means that you can help facilitate your child’s language through yours and your child’s daily routines. Give your child names of items during familiar routines keeping your language simple.

Making lunch -While in the kitchen encourage your child to look at name all the food you will be using and discuss what they look, feel and taste like. Talk about what foods you like and don’t like.

Bath time- Bath time is great to learn new words such as body parts and simple action that can be learnt naturally through common routines. Ask questions and make simple comments. Play simple word games such as ‘find your nose’, ‘point to your hair’.

As your child gets to know the routines they can focus on the language you are using and the activity they are doing.


Exploring books together will help your child to learn a variety of new words, to help with this learning read and talk about the same book with your child every day. To begin with choose books with simple pictures of familiar objects such as toys, animals or food. If possible to make reading interactive use books with different textures or flaps to lift. Comment on your child’s actions through out.

Further information

If you are concerned about your child’s development and would like further assessment and support from a Speech and Language, contact us and one of our therapists will be able to offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your concerns.