Birth to 2 years:
Teach your baby to imitate your actions, including clapping your hands, throwing kisses, and playing finger games such as pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and the itsy-bitsy spider.
Imitate your baby’s laughter and facial expressions.
12 to 18 months:
Sing simple songs together (Isty Bitsy Spider, etc.) As your child learns the songs, leave off the last word of the phrase, and see if he or she will fill in the missing word after a short pause.
Talk all the time! Tell your child what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, or doing to provide new vocabulary words and labels to objects and actions.
18 to 24 months:
Plan some field trips, talking about what you see and do: Try the park, the zoo, the airport, a parade, a farm, the beach, even shopping or a restaurant.
2 to 3 years:
Help your child with sounds by exaggerating a sound when you use it (i.e. Where is the sssssock?).
Repeat what your child says to you; expand and improve. (Child: “See car go.” Parent: “I see the car go.”) Model the correct grammar instead of saying, “No, say it like . . .” or making the child repeat after you verbatim.
“Reading” wordless picture books are wonderful for practicing language and making up stories together.
2 to 4 years:
Ask questions that require a choice. “Do you want an apple or an orange?” “Do you want to wear your red or blue shirt?”
Place familiar objects in a container. Have your child remove the object and tell you what it is called and how to use it. “This is my ball. I bounce it. I play with it.”
3 to 4 years:
Go through magazines and sales flyers to get pictures of various things with similarities (i.e. red items, toys, food, actions, things in the living room, etc.) Cut them out and make a collage.
4 to 5 years:
Present a variety of objects, and then remove one, playing “what’s missing?” You can also play memory or concentration games, or make your own memory game using magazine pictures or advertisements.
Have the child describe an object and have you guess what it is. Take turns.
Start categorizing: Name animals, foods, things that go, etc. You can do this verbally, with pictures, or with actual objects.
Use movements to learn about prepositions and spatial concepts. Create an obstacle course and have your child crawl under a table, through a large box, over a pile of pillows, step on and off a stool, and so on.
Use movements to learn opposites. Have your child be as little/big as possible. Do a big jump and a little jump. Have your child walk (run, clap, wave) slow and fast. Reach high and low. Use wagon or toy truck to push and pull.
Use movement activities to learn shapes. Have your child run or walk on the outlines of large shapes drawn with sidewalk chalk. “Draw” large shapes on the wall with a flashlight in a dark room. “Paint” shapes with water on the fence or an outside wall.
Have a child use words for different senses to describe something or talk about an activity you are doing together. What do you see? What do your hear? How does it smell? How does it taste? How does it feel? This works well with multi-sensory activities such as playdoh, sandbox, rice table, making cookies with cookie cutters, stringing cereal, making bubbles.
To encourage conversation, avoid asking yes/no questions. Instead, say, “Tell me about . . .” or “How did you do it?”
Getting dressed time is great for learning all sorts of words and concepts. Learn nouns (shirt, socks, pants, pajamas, etc.), body parts (arm, leg, elbow, fingers, etc.), actions (pull, push, put, raise, button, snap, etc.), time/sequence (first, last, next, before, after, etc.), adjectives (colors, dirty, clean, new, old, light, dark, etc.).
Play “What do you Hear?” Let your child become familiar with household sounds by ringing the doorbell, turning on the water, etc. Make a sound or play a recording of a sound and have your child touch or name what made the sound.
Encourage creative-symbolic play. Provide your child with dolls, blocks, dishes, boxes, cars and trucks, puppets, dress-up clothes. Play with your child. Pretend a box is a house or a train. Pretend a block arrangement is a castle.
Imaginative Play: Read stories often and act them out with your child. Or act out the story with dolls or puppets.
Play “What Is It?” Give the function and have the child name the object: Examples: “What do we read?” (books), “What goes on our foot?” (shoe, sock), “What do we ride in?” (car, truck) and so on.
Talk about objects as you play with them (i.e., the book fell down, the truck crashed).
Use gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions to help learn new words. Wave a hand for “bye-bye,” hold out your hand for “give me . . .,” frown while saying, “I am angry.”