Encouraging Language Development in Your Preschooler

Encouraging Language Development in Your Preschooler

Topic Overview

Children's language development is likely to progress more
rapidly when they are given frequent opportunities to interact with both
children and adults.

Talking with other children

Children who frequently
play with others who are about the same age usually develop expressive language
skills more quickly than those who have contact only with adults. Young
children speak very directly and simply, which helps other children learn

Talking with you and other adults

Children develop and improve
their speech and language skills by talking with their parents and other
adults. These discussions also help children form mental images of people,
events, and places, which are important milestones in thinking and learning.
Talking with adults introduces proper grammar and complex sentences to

But your child can pick up poor grammar too. Your child learns from even very simple conversations. During ages 4 to 5, your child is likely to learn many swear words. Your child will hear adults swear when they are angry or stressed. And your child will find that people react strongly whenever he or she uses swear words. Try to be a good role model and not use swear words. Also, try to get your child to not use swear words.

Parents often gain more insight into their children's
feelings and thoughts as language skills increase. Sometimes conversations with
young children turn up important fears or
anxieties that parents can help manage. Keep calm when
your child tells you something disturbing. Children don't always express
themselves using the same language as adults. For example, a child may say
"Johnny wants me to jump off the building at school" and really mean that he is
afraid of using certain equipment on the playground.

Here are some tips to help your child learn new words and use longer sentences:

  • Add to what your child says. For example, if your child says "red ball," you can add another word like "soft
    red ball."
  • Describe feelings. For example, when your child is crying because he or she cannot go outside to play, you
    can say, "You are upset and feel sad because you can't go outside now."
  • Teach your child the correct names for common objects, such as "toes" (not "piggies") and "cut" (not "owie").
  • Don't imitate your child's unclear speech, constantly correct, or embarrass your child by making him or her
    repeat unclear words, especially when other people are around. Correct your child in a positive way by
    rephrasing, repeating, and relabeling.
  • Encourage your child to talk to others, including other children his or her age. But don't force your child to talk
    or make him or her uncomfortable by insisting on conversation.
  • Don't talk for your child. For example, allow your child to ask you for something he or she wants.


Reading to your child daily helps him or her to develop speech and
language skills. Reading together also offers a time of quiet comfort and

  • Choose books that show lots of action. Ask your child to
    point to familiar items and make the sounds that go with them. Say "Point to the fire engine" and "What sound
    does the fire engine make?"
  • Visit the library on a regular basis.


Limit TV time to 1 hour a day or less. TV doesn't seem to encourage or support children's development of speech or language
skills. In general, spoken words make little impression unless they are in the
context of a conversation with someone the child knows and cares about.


Other Works Consulted

  • Council on Communications and Media (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5): e20162591. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2591.


ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofJanuary 8, 2018

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