Tip: Label and Repeat

Posted: April 15, 2020


Labeling is a great, simple way to promote early language development. When babies are young, they don’t know an apple from an orange. Naming things in your environment (home, grocery store, park, etc.) helps give them the vocabulary needed to understand and communicate. So, instead of saying non-specific words, like “this" and "that,” label the objects. This also applies to actions, “jump, run, push, open, swing.”   

The best time to name is when your child is ENGAGED with what you are doing (for example, during daily routines like dressing and bathtime) or when you are FOLLOWING THEIR LEAD (for example, during playtime).

REPEAT the words often. Children, especially those with language delays, need to hear words MANY times before they say them on their own. During play or daily routines, try to repeat words multiple times in an interaction. It is best to repeat the same word 3-5 times during each turn in an activity.

For example: child playing with toy cars (BEEP is target word)
Parent: (respond to what child is doing and use words to match) “Beep! The car goes beep! Beep! Beep!”
Child: (starts pushing the car)
Parent: (respond by commenting and repeating the word) “Beep beep! The car is moving! Beep!”)
Child: (pushes car more)
Parent: (wait to give child a chance to respond)
Child: “Be” (or no response)
Parent: (label word again) “Beep! Beep! Beep!”
Child: (pushes car more)
Parent: (waits)
Child: “Beep!”
Parent: (add on) “Yes! Beep! The car is so fast! The car says beep beep!” 

NOTE: This is not a time to focus on them imitating or repeating the word.  We never want to put pressure on the child by telling them to say a word (e.g., "Say, BEEP!").  If they say the word on their own, that’s great and cause to celebrate, but remember to reduce the pressure. Children need to hear words A LOT and labeling & repeating words will help your child understand words which then leads to talking. Children need to understand a word or action before they can spontaneously say it on their own.

Try it out at home: NAME IT and REPEAT and REPEAT some more!