Language opportunities in everyday life

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

A child’s language becomes more and more complex as they develop. From single words to sentences, to telling stories, children become better at describing the world around them and talking about events in their daily lives.

Speech-language pathologists often use strategies to support this growth and motivate children to explore language and use more details to describe things around them. Picture scenes are just one of many ways to facilitate language learning. They allow for children to observe details of a picture, and then describe what they see. The “start a conversation” activity in the KidTalk app adds a new meaning to “A picture is worth 1,000 words.”

How does this benefit children? Interesting pictures motivate children to look for details and description tasks motivate children to use language in a new context (i.e.,a picture they haven’t seen before). It provides opportunities to create stories based on what is seen in a picture, which supports the development of language components such as grammar and storytelling. Compared to everyday conversations, children use more advanced vocabulary and longer sentences when telling stories, making this a great way to practice language. When a child has difficulty telling a story, it provides a real-time learning opportunity. Take a look at the picture below:

Children sitting in a group, playing instruments.
Children sitting in a group, playing instruments. (Adobe Stock)

This picture scene has a lot going on! You might focus on the children on the floor with their instruments, or you might focus on the adult in the picture teaching a child to play the guitar. This might remind a child of a time they saw someone play guitar. This single picture provides different opportunities for a child to describe what they see. If they have been exposed to instruments, they may start describing all the instruments they see and what they do. If your child does not know all of the instruments, it can provide an opportunity to use descriptive language to talk about an unfamiliar object and then learn new words with the help of an adult.

As your child begins to describe, you can observe how they use language. You might see them using grammar in new ways, or you may see them overgeneralize something in the picture. For instance, if there is a dog in the picture, and your family has a dog named Chloe, your child might say “Chloe is in the picture!”

You can also have these opportunities without the pictures. Imagine a room after your child has finished playing, and their toys are scattered. You can have your child start to talk about where their toys are or what they decided to play with. You can practice planning and sequencing as you talk about how your child will go about cleaning up the room. You can also incorporate meal times into this type of activity. What kinds of foods are on your plates? What colors are they? Are there foods that taste better than others?

Describing is a powerful tool that you can use in structured activities, or in daily activities and routines that are meaningful to your family! Children experience so much on a daily basis, and allowing them to describe just what they’re experiencing can be a foundation for their development.