Promoting Preschoolers’ Expressive Language Skills

Parents of preschool-age children often seek ways to enhance their child’s oral language skills. Following is a list of ways that you can stimulate your preschooler’s expressive language daily:

  • Use “self-talk” or talk about what you are doing throughout your day. Narrate your own activities so your child can hear your language connected to what you are doing.
  • Also talk about what your child is doing while he/she is doing it.  This allows your child to hear the vocabulary and form to describe his/her own activities and experiences.
  • Expand your child’s utterances by rephrasing the utterance they make into a longer, more advanced language structure with more information and/or vocabulary.
  • Encourage your child to expand his/her own utterances by interjecting a word such as “and”, “because”, “then”, or  “so” to suggest they continue their idea with an additional phrase or sentence.
  • Model a variety of language structures and vocabulary.  Avoid using “baby talk” with your child.
  • Casually restate your child’s utterance with corrected grammar.   Ex.:    Child:  Her swimming.   Parent:  Oh, yes, she is swimming.  Don’t make fun of your child’s mistakes or mimic their incorrect utterances.
  • Allow your child enough time to talk without interruptions.  It may take your child a little longer to express their message verbally than a more experienced speaker.
  • Encourage your child to speak in naturally-occurring situations, not by placing demands on him or her to “perform” in front of others.
  • Allow your child opportunities to take the lead and make choices.  Follow their lead and support their attempts to communicate about what interests them.
  • Follow your child’s lead to talk about what they are observing or doing or what interests them.  They will have more to say about topics that are important to them at that moment.  Focus on the here and now!
  • Prompt your child to talk more by saying things such as “Tell me more about that.”  “Is that right?”, “That’s interesting!”, etc.
  • Use non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and gestures to indicate your interest and encourage your child to continue talking.
  • Sing and repeat songs, nursery rhymes and fingerplays often.  Use lots of vocal expression and body movement.  Your child will join in with more and more language as repetition helps them learn the words and structures of the songs or rhymes.
  • Give your child opportunities to use their language in natural situations with others to communicate their wants or needs.  For example, when at a restaurant, encourage your child to relate their order to the wait staff instead of having you do all the talking for them.
  • Read together daily!! Let your child choose books that interest them; repetition of favorites is a good vehicle for learning language patterns and vocabulary!  Also have times when you get to choose and introduce new and different books.  Encourage your child to join in as you read and to “read” to you as he or she “learns” their favorite stories.


1.   Official website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

2.  Apel, Kenn and Masterson, Julie J. Beyond Baby Talk:  From Sounds to Sentences – A Parent’s Complete Guide to Language Development.   Roseville, CA:  Prima Publishing, 2001.                                                        

3.  Manolson, Ayala.  It Takes Two to Talk:  A Parent’s Guide to Helping  Children Communicate.  Toronto:  The Hanen Centre, 1992.

by Jennifer G. Lyden, MS, CCC-SLP/L 

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