Recommit to New LSL Habits in the New Year

As you set your intentions for the year ahead, think about the LSL habits you use each day. It’s a great time to freshen up your routine with new tactics and strategies to build your child’s language — or to recommit to old LSL habits that have worked in the past.

Routines are important. Small children in particular rely on routine to garner the security and predictability they need to learn and grow.

But every once in a while, routine can turn into a rut — and all of us get stuck in one sometimes.

As early interventionists we know that feeling of trying to come up with something new for the kids and families we see week to week — hoping to gain and to keep their attention.

As parents we get tired! Some weeks go better than others. Some weeks you have to spend a lot of time in audiology. Some weeks it’s more work just to get the technology working.


If you find yourself in this place, don’t get discouraged. This time of year the whole world is talking about recommitting to old, good habits and trying some new ones on for size.

As you settle into a post-holiday rhythm and set your intention for the year ahead, it’s a great time to consider some of the LSL habits you use each day. Freshen up your repertoire. Maybe even consider adding a new tactic to the tool belt you use to build your child’s language.  

The LSL in Daily Life section of our website lists the “Top 10 LSL ways to build your child’s language.” We wanted to expand on that list by offering up some concrete strategies you may consider using in the months to come.

  1. Talk to your child, then pause, and wait for a response. Lean in. Look expectantly. Give your child time to answer. If they don’t answer, you can turn and ask the same question to an older sibling or other adult to provide a model: “Daddy, what do you want for a snack?” Now ask your child the same question again.
  2. Talk about what your child is doing and what you’re doing. Describe the actions and thoughts that are surrounding you like a radio commentator or play-by-play announcer. Don’t hesitate to describe the details. This will give your child the chance to hear lots of words and build their vocabulary. It also makes little experiences more meaningful.
  3. Read aloud to your child every day: encourage them to talk about the story and the pictures. Consider sharing a book and talk about the pictures as you go. You can make a book more interactive, by putting post-it notes over pictures to create a flap book. Make up a song, ask questions, and comment on your child’s responses.
  4. Keep conversations going by asking questions and commenting on your child’s response. When you have a conversation with a friend, you rarely ask rapid fire questions one question after another. "What color is it? How many? Who’s behind the tree?” These test questions can feel like a pass-fail exercise to most children. 
    1. Try asking questions that feel natural. “What do you see? What’s your favorite color?”
    2. Try giving the child a closed set of choices. “Do you want one cookie or two cookies? Do you want a banana or an apple?”
    3. Then lean in, pause, look expectantly, and expect a response!
  5. Sing songs and learn finger plays, action verses, and rhymes together. Many familiar nursery rhymes and children’s songs are famous for a reason! These catchy tunes and sticky phrases return to us again and again. Consider choosing songs and rhymes you can integrate into daily tasks, such as: “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share! Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!” Or “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to 4!”
  6. Use new and interesting words daily, and give your child time to learn those new words. Try different ways to say the same thing. Like “Bye bye, hasta la vista, see ya later!” Or even, “Thank you! Many thanks! You’re too kind! Much obliged.” Not only does this expands your child’s vocabulary — it helps them understand that language is flexible. They learn that there’s a broad palette from which they can choose from to express themselves. 
  7. Share in pretend-play activities, acting out daily, and play routines. Grab a pair of socks from your drawer and make sock puppets to pretend play with your child.
    1. Pretend play an activity that’s coming up. It’s great for kids to be able to practice and prepare for social situations. If you have a birthday party next weekend, you might pretend to open presents and practice what your child is going to say. Or practice greeting guests as they come in the door.
    2. Pretend play trying on different roles and responsibilities. Your child may pretend they’re taking your order at a drive-through, asking, “What do you want to eat? How much? Do you want pickles on that?” It’s fun to see where kids take it. Your child can take cans from the cabinet and set up their own grocery store — or line up stuffed animals and pretend they’re the teacher. They can even take on the role of mom or dad and pretend to put their parents down for a nap! 
  8. Foster thinking skills with statements like “I think...”  and open questions like “What do you think…” or “I wonder what will happen…” Try this out the next time you take a walk in your neighborhood. You might see a worm on the ground, and ask “Where do you think he’s going?” or see a busy bus pull up to the corner and say, “I think that bus is getting very full. I hope there’s room for everyone to sit!”
  9. Encourage your child to greet and get to know other children and adults. For many children, there’s a tendency to be a little shy when unfamiliar adults speak to them. Our tendency as parents is to want to “rescue” our little ones and answer for them — but they need practice engaging with other adults. Encouraging your child to speak when spoken to gives them a chance to practice strategies for social success. Next time, resist the temptation to remove them from the situation before they have a chance to respond.
  10. Take your child with you to new places, such as the grocery store, library, car wash, and gas station. As much as our kids enjoy and thrive in the familiarity of home, they also need the opportunity to explore new places. New experiences give them a chance to learn new words. Simply running errands together can help them learn more about how the world around them works.
    1. Next time you’re going to the grocery story, take your child with you. Point out what’s happening and explain what they’re seeing. There are many new sounds and objects for your baby to experience there. You can talk about riding in the cart, opening doors, naming foods, talking about the color, shape, or taste of foods, and waiting in line.
    2. When your baby is riding, you can also play a “stop and go” game by stopping the cart, then starting again. Combine this motion with words, such as “1, 2, 3...go! Stop!” Then start again. This can become a really fun listening and language learning time.

Some of these strategies may be new to you and others may be old hat. All of us have seasons where things are particularly hard or particularly busy. In these times it’s common to get stuck in survival mode — to put our heads down and just try to push through. Here are some questions to consider when using this post to make your own plans: 

Perhaps some habits have fallen by the wayside. Which habit might you choose from this list that would raise the bar? 

You may feel like you’re stuck in rut with a strategy on this list. For example, maybe you’re in a rut with words and have struggled to use synonyms lately. Which one do you need to practice for a while to move forward? 

Which habits on this list would be helpful to talk to a professional about? As a professional, which item on this list would be a priority for the families you’re working with? Go back through the list and work together to figure out what’s best for their child.