How Can I Encourage My Child To Speak More?

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A question we often hear at Pop is ‘how can I help my child to learn to talk?’.

Communication is an integral part of our everyday life and as our little ones grow and develop it becomes essential in building their independence to request basic needs and wants, socialise, and engage in everyday activities such as mealtimes and household routines.

So, what’s the key to success?

One of our favourite strategies here at Pop is OWL – Observe, Wait, Listen.

What Is OWL?


Take the time to closely observe your child’s body language, actions, gestures and facial expressions. Tune in to identify their interests, or needs at the time. 


This gives your child time to interact with you. You can do this by keeping quiet, leaning forward and looking at your child with an expectant facial expression. After you do or say something, wait and look at your child. Use a facial expression that cues your child into wanting to “take a turn” in the play or conversation.


Pay close attention to the sounds and words your child is producing to understand their message. For example, ‘dee-dee’ could mean ‘kitty’. Show them you are listening by repeating back what they said using the correct sounds.



How Can OWL Help My Child’s Language Development?

OWL-ing provides you with time to observe your child’s words or actions so that you can expand on this and create new opportunities to learn.

Your child is given time to initiate or show interest in something; this allows them time to take the lead and start an interaction or respond to what you have said or done on their terms.

By tuning into these messages from your child, you can learn a lot about what your child is interested in and what they may be trying to tell you.

Not all children’s language develops at the same rate, or with the same style. Is your child a discoverer, communicator, or first word user?


A discoverer does not communicate intentionally. It is important to respond immediately when they do something that could resemble a message. For example, when they are making cooing sounds.


Observe your child’s body language. Listen to their sounds. Follow their eye gaze, gestures, and facial expressions. Wait to give them the time they need to start an interaction and take their lead.

First Word Users and Combiners

Continue to OWL to encourage your child to talk even more. When you OWL, you can usually figure out what they are trying to say, even if you don’t understand their words.

The good thing is, OWL-ing works for all communication styles!

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So, What Does This Look Like In Everyday Life And How Can I Do It?

Some of our favourite activities to encourage opportunities to practice OWL-ing and create language-rich interactions include:

  • Building things! You can use play-doh, lego, blocks, or household items like toilet rolls, cereal boxes and containers.
  • People Games: blowing bubbles, peek-a-boo, tickling, hide-and-seek.
    Bath-time routine: use toys, or household items such as cups, strainers, pegs, to encourage play during bath time.
  • Mealtimes: engage your child in the preparation for mealtimes including peeling, cutting, preparing food, setting the dinner table. Use this as your time to observe their actions, and expand on their attempts to communicate.

When you OWL and follow your child’s lead during play or everyday routines, you tune into their messages. OWL-ing can be done all day, every day, anytime, anywhere!



If you have concerns about your little one and want to learn more about online speech therapy with Pop, visit our home page at www.popfamily.au and fill out our Free Consultation form to lock in a session with one of our experienced Speech Therapists.

*The information in this blog post is referenced from www.hanen.org

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