Building Blocks for Language and Communication Skills

In the domain of speech and language development, parents too are the champions that a child needs. The development of communication skills...

...begins as soon as a child is born. Early speech and language intervention can help children progress with learning, communication and interpersonal relationships.

"Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
— Rita F. Pierson

Some of the building blocks of language and communication skills include: joint attention, visual and auditory awareness, and the imitation of actions and sounds. These can be applied to typically-developing children below five, as well as children with special needs at various stages of development.


Joint Attention

Joint attention refers to the moment when two people share an interest in an object or event that is occurring at the present moment. For example, you are playing with your child, and pointing to the car, you say, “Look at that car.” Your child responds by directing their attention to the car and acknowledge their interest which you have initiated. 

The goal is to create opportunities for your child to initiate or respond to joint attention. 

Suggested Strategies and Activities:

• Use gestures like pointing to indicate the point of focus 

• Use the hand-over-hand technique: take your child’s hand to point to the object of interest which allows him to practise gesturing 

• Capitalise on their attention and mimic your child’s interest in a particular toy or activity they are already engaged in with commentary. For example, when your child is playing with a ball, you may say simple sentences like, “You are playing with the ball. It is big and round. It bounces.” 

• Incorporate opportunities into the child’s daily routine! They can be practised at a child’s natural environment and throughout their daily activities - when they are brushing their teeth, walking to school, or having meals. 

Visual and Auditory Awareness

Visual and auditory awareness refers to your child’s consciousness and recognition of sights and sounds around him. Consciously make your child aware of what is going on around him so that he can learn about them. 

Suggested Strategies and Activities:

• Watch and describe actions and activities taking place outside with your child. For example, people cycling, cars on the road, birds flying, dogs barking 

• Read picture books with your child and encourage him or her to point out her favourite picture.

• Teach your child to respond appropriately to common sounds and signals. For example, at a traffic light, the telephone ringing, the doorbell

Imitation of actions and sounds

Some children may find difficulty combining an action with a vocalisation at the beginning. They may be able to do each separately but not together. The goal is to aim for the child to achieve simultaneous imitation of sounds and words. 

Suggested Strategies and Activities:

• Imitate animal sounds: Being early developmental sounds, animal sounds are easier and fun for a child to imitate. They also encourage the use of lip and tongue muscles. 

• Imitate inflection: drawing a line on a page, say ‘up’ slowly by prolonging the word, followed by ‘down’ with the same inflection as you draw the line down the page. 

• Blowing bubbles: ask your child to say “pop” while popping each bubble slowly, one at the time with your fingers.

Get Creative

Parents can also engage and have fun with their children by using games that implement the various strategies. Here are some of our favourite suggestions:

• The Binoculars: Using recycled cardboard toilet paper tubes, make binoculars that can help a child to focus. Look at each other through the tube, or point at various sites for your child to explore together. 

• Animal Puppets: Use animal puppets to tell a story and incorporate the sounds that they make. Exaggerate your movements and facial expression when showing the puppets to your child. 

These strategies are adapted from ‘Strategies for Building Language and Communication Skills in Children’. Compiled by the Speech and Language Department at Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS), it contains key ideas, practical techniques and descriptions, with illustrations that can be implemented into the daily routines of the child. The publication hopes to foster a better understanding of how parents can more effectively serve as a facilitator in the building of language and communication skills in their children. 

For more information, please contact the CPAS Speech and Language department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS) is dedicated to serving children and adults with cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities. From early intervention, and special education, to vocational training and professional rehabilitation services - our programmes and services are geared towards meeting the developmental needs of children and adults with cerebral palsy and maximising their functional independence.

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