Early Intervention Home Hacks: Ways to Build A Child’s Language Skills


As a speech-language pathologist who works in community-based early intervention, I am often challenged with creating and developing strategies that can easily be implemented into a family’s routine and the child’s natural learning environment. I always encourage families to use this time to nurture their child’s development. Through simple activities such as bathtime, playtime, and mealtime, parents can help their child develop important skills. As chaotic and unpredictable life may be, it’s important to keep a child’s routine as consistent as possible. There are several ways to build a child’s language skills that I typically use in my therapy sessions and when coaching and working with families.

Go-to Therapy Strategies

  1. Capture your child’s attention by using activities that require turn-taking, hand-over-hand, and motivating toys.
  2. Try to expand on your child’s responses. For example, if your child says “bear,” follow up with a response of “brown bear” or use other descriptors to increase vocabulary and expand on concept knowledge.
  3. Provide choices, such as, “Do you want cereal or fruit?” Model and provide verbal prompts/cues such as, “I want this ____, please.”
  4. Be consistent and make sure your child knows your expectations. Implement the same words and actions so that your child knows what you expect from them.
  5. Try modeling sounds, words, gestures, phrases, etc. at least three times. Be sure to try and wait for a response.
  6. Observe your child and reflect: “Are they engaged?” and “Do they understand?”
  7. When presenting an item, allow your child to make comments or requests and/or show you that they understand, instead of you speaking first.
Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

Here are a few helpful strategies and various ways to build your child’s language skills and overall development during some daily routine activities.

1. Bathtime:

  • Blow bubbles together: Talk about the texture of the bubbles and the size of the bubbles.
  • Label and comment on facial features and other body parts.
  • Build on independence skills by practicing washing body parts.
  • Discuss the color and/or smell of the soap or shampoo.
  • Use descriptive words while you play with bath toys. Take turns showing and observing first, and then add language when possible.

2. Getting Dressed:

  • Play dress-up to expand on pretend play and provide an opportunity for clothing choices and options.
  • When possible allow your child to make a choice between colors of clothing and to choose an outfit.
  • Provide verbal and visual choices for clothing.
  • Ask “what’s next?” to work on the sequencing of getting dressed and to challenge the child to become independent dressers.
  • Provide directions such as “give me your foot” and “lift your arms” to build on receptive language skills.

3. Mealtime:

  • Allow the child to help you cook, mix, shake, stir, etc.
  • Narrate and label actions, utensils, and ingredients.
  • Discuss the color, taste, and temperature of foods.
  • Help them to serve themselves similar to family-style dining.
  • Eat together to model the use of utensils and to discuss their day, favorite foods, non-preferred foods, and to encourage tasting new food.

These are just a few of my favorite and most commonly used ways to build a child’s language skills that I typically share with caregivers. Please follow my IG page @_spikmylanguage for more information on early intervention and fun and creative ways to incorporate speech and language development with infants and toddlers.

More About Our Guest Author:

Chelsea S. Blanks is a DC native, wife, mom, and speech-language pathologist who has worked in community-based early intervention for the past 8 years with the DC Strong Start program. She previously worked with the VA Parent Infant Education program. Chelsea is passionate about her field and is so grateful, humbled, and blessed to have the knowledge and skillset to serve her kiddos and their families each day. Chelsea loves to spend time with family & friends, read, personal shop/style for friends, interior decorate, travel, shop, volunteer in the community, and attend community events to support the people she serves on a daily basis.