Daily routines are a great way to give your child extra opportunities for language development. These routines include bath time, meal time, outdoor play, etc. Whatever the “routine” is, it is done very consistently right about the same time each day.
Night time routines can have a huge impact on your child’s sleep, language and behavior. Children need 8-10 hours of sleep every night to function to their utmost potential. Getting them to bed easier and quicker helps you, as a parent, achieve that nightly nap! So, around the same time each night, which Is around 7:45 at our house, we start to clean up toys, put baby dolls to sleep, etc. Just within clean up time there are lots of opportunity for language. You can tell the toys “night night” and if you put a stuffed animal to sleep, you are modeling pretend play skills, which are the foundation for expressive language development.
After clean up time, we have a few minutes to turn off lights in the house. Most young children love this game. As you go through each room, model phrases such as, “goodnight couch,” “goodnight door,” or “goodnight kitchen.” You can change these words up each night, but just the increased labels for objects within their daily environment during a functional game can increase their receptive and expressive vocabulary. This way, you are not just labeling an object for no reason trying to get them to repeat it back to you… You are creating a reason to have them repeat after you.
After telling items within the house goodnight, brushing teeth is another time where you can implement words such as “off and on” with the water, “up and down” with the toothbrush, and sign and say “all done.” Then, head towards bed to read a book. Choose two books and give your child the option… This way it gives them autonomy to choose but your child does not get lost in picking out a book or choose one that is not very engaging. Choices also give your child the ability to expressively imitate a request or point to a desired book, which are great communication skills that are needed for language development. If your child’s attention span is very limited, just talk about what the characters are doing on the pages and let your child lead in turning the pages. Books that involve your child to touch, open flaps, or move pieces around will keep them engaged longer and limit frustration levels.
Routines are great for getting your child in bed, which is the ultimate goal. But, secondary to that, you are increasing their language! If you decrease the variance in their schedule, children can attend better to your spoken language. When they do not understand what will happen next, they do not know what to anticipate, therefore, they are trying to adjust to a new schedule (whether that be emotionally, physically, etc.) and their focus is no longer on the words you are saying. When there are set routines in your household, you have engagement with your toddler, without major distractions and you are modeling words within their environment consistently each night.
Good luck and most importantly, HAVE FUN!!
Emily Watkins, MCD, CCC-SLP