This is a question that I hear on a regular basis.  As research has proven, a parent or caregiver is a child’s first and best teacher for developing language.

Having a language enriched environment in addition to lots of hugs and positive interaction, will also carry over into your child having a successful experience in the classroom environment.

Approximately one in five children (20%) under age five have some kind of developmental delay, and only half of these (50%) are identified before they begin school. Early detection allows early intervention, giving a child the best chance for success in every area of life.

Developing good language skills depends on more than just words. Children watch your facial expressions, mouth, hands and body language for communication cues as well. Cueing your child’s speech is an effective way to help him add to his vocabulary. Here are some helpful hints you can use.

Verbal Cues

The child asks, “Wha dis?” You respond, “It’s a ball. Tell me. What is it? It’s a B—“ (give the first sound of the word). Your child learns to say “ball.” This will include the rise and fall in the pitch of your voice for questions or the intensity in your voice to express emotion.

Visual Cues

The child is holding something you want him to give you. Stretch out your hand with the palm up and say, “Give me the ___________, please,” pointing to your palm at the same time. Your child understands that you want him to place the object in your hand. Pointing and gesturing will give direction or emphasis to your speech.

Tactile Cues

The child is looking at books with different textures on the animal pictures. You say, “Pat the bunny.” The child touches the soft fur. You say, “Soft, the bunny is soft.” Your child understands what “soft” means. This expands into spatial language with the positioning of objects.

Auditory Cues

The telephone rings, and you say, “What’s that sound? Is it the phone?” He responds with the word, “Phone.” This is expanding with the differentiation of sounds in words.

Joint Attention

Encouraging your child to look at objects and pictures while you name them, helps your child learn new words.  Words are abstract.

You can’t see, feel, smell, or taste words. They are like the wind. Once words are spoken they are gone, however, if your child can see, smell and/or touch the object, he has more time to process what you are saying.

Good communication skills will open many doors for personal success in your child’s future.

An article I discovered years ago in the American Educator (2003), “The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3,” by Betsy Hart and Todd R. Risley, backs up my beliefs about the importance of parenting in the communication process: their research concluded that children living in Professional Class homes heard approximately 30 million more words than children in Welfare Class homes, and 10 million more than those in Working Class homes. The children in these families developed language at the same ratio. The research went a step further and compared the children’s success in the classroom environment with their communication skills. Again, there was a direct correlation. What was also a factor was the way parents interacted with their children: a more positive manner encouraged learning. It’s also important, in today’s high-tech homes, to provide an environment that is rich in words and sensory activities that stimulate all areas of development.

Be wise and invest the time and education in your children and yourself. You are your child’s best teacher, and as research has proven, “Education takes place in the home.” Kathryn Thorson Gruhn,  MA CCC-SLP


Kathryn Thorson Gruhn has 35 years of child development experience. She is certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), holding both Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Speech-Language Pathology. She gained her clinical expertise by working with children as well as adults with a full spectrum of communication disorders.

One of Kathryn’s most rewarding experiences was working for United Cerebral Palsy in an inclusive child development center which was composed equally of children with normal development and those with delayed development. She provided therapy in the classroom and facilitated educational, nurturing relationships between parents and their children, which inspired her ideas for My Baby Compass. Her down-to-earth, approachable style makes this program accessible for all parents and caregivers.  She wanted to write a program that empowers parents to know that their child is meeting milestones in their development and what to do if a parent has concerns.

Kathryn and her husband live on a farm in Weddington, North Carolina, where she is completing the last book of the My Baby Compass series. These books can be purchased on