Activities to Promote Receptive and Expressive Language Skills

Most children will naturally acquire receptive (understanding) and expressive (talking) language skills as they develop, explore their environment and interact with their caregivers. Even children who are typically developing and free of delays require some form of cognitive stimulation on a daily basis to acquire vocabulary and learn how to appropriately utilize it.

Below we have listed a variety of activities which are easily carried out during daily routines to promote development of appropriate language skills. These activities are appropriate for both typically developing children and children with speech or language delays.

Birth to One Year

  • While face-to-face with your baby, imitate his vocalizations, laughter, and facial expressions
  • Play imitation games with your baby: peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, waving, blowing kisses, sticking out tongue. Take turns carrying out these gestures to promote the same ‘turn taking’ needed for conversation.
  • Narrate everything you do related to your baby or while she is watching you: “Mommy is getting your bottle ready. I have to pour the milk in and put on the top”. “Ready to go to the park? We have to put on your shoes. Ready? One shoe, two shoes. All done! Let’s go to the car”. This is one of the most important things you can do with your baby. Every activity becomes an opportunity to teach vocabulary.
  • Discuss colors whenever there is an opportunity.
  • Look at infant picture books and discuss the vocabulary on each page. Once your baby is nearing his first birthday, ask him to identify very common objects (i.e. “where is the puppy dog?”)
  • Count things during otherwise dull activities: count the stairs while going up/down, Cheerio’s during snack time, shoes and socks while dressing, fingers/toes during bath time.
  • Teach animal sounds and encourage your baby to imitate you. Use visual references (pictures in books, plastic animals, your or neighbors’ pets)