What Parents and Caregivers Can Do

Parents and caregivers are the most important resource children have.  Parent and caregiver interaction with your child affects how your child learns, communicates and interacts with the people and world around them.  Parents and caregivers can get involved in their child’s development by spending time every day in routines, listening and responding to your child’s communication, sharing play time, reading, and sharing comfort, love and affection with your child.

Open the accordion boxes below to discover suggestions to help your child use words to solve problems, make choices, describe objects and events and share ideas.

The Hanen Centre has also created a resource page just for parents to give them the important information they need about the warning signs of language delay and the importance of getting help early. Learn more.

Six to Twelve Months

Babies like it when you:
  • Get down to their level so they can see your face. This tells them that you’re interested in what they’re doing and saying. It makes it easier to interact with you.
  • Repeat the sounds they make. Babies enjoy making noises, and like it when you imitate them over and over.
  • Sing and laugh, especially when you are feeding, bathing, and changing them. Remember to talk to your baby throughout the day about things you do and see – “Mommy’s putting on her coat”, “That’s a big truck”
  • Tell them the names of the objects they are looking at and playing with. Babies are interested in exploring and learning about new things, and like to hear what things are called.

Eighteen to Thirty Months

Toddlers like it when you:
  • Let them touch and hold books while you point to and name the pictures.
  • Use real words instead of baby talk – “give me” instead of ta ta or “bottle” instead of baba.
  • Take the time to listen to them – they want you to hear all of their new sounds, words and ideas.
  • Give them simple directions to follow – “Go find your red boots”.
  • Use lots of different words when you talk to them – opposite words like up/down, in/out; action words like “running”, “splashing”, and descriptive words like “happy”, “big”, “little”, “clean”, “dirty”.
  • Encourage them to play with other children – at the library, play groups, park.

Three Years

Three year-olds like it when you:
  • Give them different materials to encourage drawing and scribbling, including chalk, pencils, crayons, markers, finger paints.
  • Use descriptive words such as colours and opposites (hot/cold, big/little, fast/slow) as well as action words (flying, splashing, running) when you are talking with them.
  • Give them extra time to share their ideas.
  • Give them choices – about what foods to eat, toys to play with, clothes to wear.
  • Model correct sounds and grammar for them – child says “he wunned” and you say “yes, he ran”.
  • Read books that are predictable and repetitive – pause to give the child a chance to fill in the words and phrases.
  • Play and pretend with them! They may like acting out scenes from their favourite videos, pretending to eat in a restaurant or to be a teacher or firefighter.

Four Years

Four year-olds like it when you:
  • Give them lots of opportunities to play with other children – at the library, the park, the Early Years Centre. Sometimes they like having just one or two friends over to your home to play.
  • Point out words in books and run your finger under words while you read to them.
  • Talk about the order of events – describe what happens first, next and last – “first we wash our hands, then we have a snack and last we put our dishes in the sink”.
  • Encourage them to tell their own stories – by asking them to tell you about their day, to describe a movie they watched, to tell you about their favourite book.
  • Read books rhyming words – “mouse/house”, and point out sounds at the start of words – “Mommy starts with the ‘mmm’ sound – that’s the letter M”.

Five Years

Five year-olds like it when you:
  • Use new and more complex words – “before/after”, “rough/smooth”, “easy/difficult”, “between/bedside”, “same/different”.
  • Talk about numbers and the quantity of objects – “a lot/a little”, “more/less”, “one/many”.
  • Ask them to predict what will happen next – “What do you think will happen when Sam opens his birthday present?”, and explain the reasons behind choices – “Why do we need to wear our coats today?”
  • Take turns telling each other stories using the pictures in books – children like to hear you talk and then want a turn to create their own version of the story.
  • Let them help plan events. Talk about what you need to do before a birthday party, or how to get ready to go to the zoo. Ask your child “why” and “how” questions as you talk.
  • Ask them to help. Your child will enjoy helping you bake cookies, set the table, sort laundry, etc. Give them instructions and see if they can tell you the steps.

Read With Your Child

Read with your child:
  • Have a regular reading time and place such as bedtime on the bed; make the space comfortable; try to be very relaxed; try to avoid being interrupted
  • Introduce the book in an interesting way; if it is about dogs, show it and ask “What do you think this book is about?” or “What do you think happens in this story?”
  • Don’t feel obligated to read from the text; sometimes it is more interesting to tell the story in your own words
  • Read with expression; repeat phrases that you and your child find enjoyable; give characters voices, and have the child join in at key moments; this helps make reading FUN!
  • Books can be used for modeling new words, familiar words, sentence structure and speech sounds
  • Connect the story to other activities; the child may enjoy drawing a scene from the story or acting out the characters with toy figures
  • Read favourite stories again, and again, and again; this provides opportunity for noticing things you and your child missed the first time through and reinforces literacy, language and speech learning – and it is FUN!


You can help with stuttering.
  • Model clear easy speech on a daily basis
  • Give quality time each day; whenever possible, the time should be unrushed and uninterrupted to allow your child to speak in a relaxed setting without the time pressure that comes with competing for a conversational turn
  • Become a good listener so your child knows that what he/she says is being heard and valued; listen quietly and give your full attention, listening to your child’s message
  • Try not to interrupt so your child does not feel he/she has to compete for a conversational turn
  • Build self-esteem; try and help your child feel some success each day
  • Comment more and question less; questions put a demand on children for more talking


Speak at a good volume.
  • Model appropriate use of your voice and good speech habits on a daily basis
  • Discourage use of loud, effortful speaking; discourage making non-speech noises such as vehicle engine sounds, helicopter/airplane sounds etc.
  • Suggest substitutes for voice use; for example, wave and whistle to get a friends attention instead of shouting from a distance
  • Eliminate background noise in the child’s environment while talking so your child does not feel he/she has to talk over other sounds such as the TV or radio to be heard
  • Reward the use of good vocal habits with a lot of praise
  • Speak to your family doctor about concerns for your child’s voice so he/she may determine if a referral to an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist is required

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