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Language development in children - play with sounds, words and sentences!

The first words, the first sentences, and eventually long stories ... When you think about it, young children's language development is breathtaking. But how does it happen?

Micki has created and developed the Babblarna toys since 2018 in close collaboration with Hatten Publishers. Elvira Ashby is the in-house speech therapist at Hatten Förlag. We asked her some questions about how children learn to talk.

How and when do children learn to talk?

Children's language development can start anytime. Even when they are newborns, they listen to us and want contact - and they communicate with body language and sound. Then children struggle for several years to learn everything that is necessary to talk to others unhindered.

When they babble, they're training to get control of all the small muscles needed to form language sounds, and at the same time they're begin to connect meanings to all the words they hear adults say.

The first words a child says are usually around their first birthday, but exactly when it happens can vary quite a bit from child to child. When children have put together a small vocabulary, they usually start putting words together in short sentences, which often happens at the age of two, and after that they're really up and running.

How can adults help children's language development?

We can do a lot to support children to develop their language. In the beginning, it's all about being sensitive and picking up what children show with body language and sounds. If we answer them, we involve the children in small dialogues - and that's great for their language development.

If the child starts talking late, speech therapists often advise that speech should be reinforced with sign language. That's why there are often illustrations of sign language signs at the back of Babblarna's books.

Another good tip, which works for both younger and older children, is that we can always support them to build vocabulary by just remembering to introduce new words when we play or talk in everyday life. And if we notice that the children have difficulty with something in particular, we can take the opportunity to concentrate on that a bit more.

We can concentrate on playing with "Diddi" and "Dadda" a bit more if we notice that the child has difficulty with the d-sound. Or the child can get involved and decide what the Babblarna should do - this encourages them to build sentences if that's something we want to help them with. Or the characters can play hide and seek, and hide under, behind and between things, if the child has trouble with situational words.


Practise different sounds, words and sentences in language play

At Hatten we usually call it "language play" when we play with the children at the same time as using the play to encourage them to take new steps in their language development.

Almost all children think language play and language stimulation are fun. And when we've been playing for a while, it's great for language development to sit down and cuddle with a book! 


Learn to speak through play – A speech therapist's tips:

  • Notice the child's body language and give each action a word.
  • Talk to the child lots about things they like.
  • Reinforce what you say with gestures or sign language.
  • Use lots of different words when you talk to your child or play with them.
  • Play together! You can practise different sounds, words and sentences in language play.
  • Read together! It's cosy and good for language development.

For those who have not heard of Hatten publishing house, can you tell us a bit about what you do?

We are a publisher that creates children's books, games, toys and materials designed for language development – like Babblarna and the Snicksnacksnoken series. Our goal is always that what we publish at Hatten will be fun for children and easy for both parents and educators to use to support children's language development.

As an in-house speech therapist at the publishing house, I get to be involved and provide a speech therapist's perspective when we produce new books and games, but also give tips and inspiration on how everything can be used.

More tips from speech therapist Elvira at www.hattenforlag.se