Why is little Johnny across the road speaking in full sentences while your little darling is stuck on goo, ga and dljhkfwncsjadjbhlk?

It could be because you’re not teaching her to use her words.

Don’t feel bad. The process of associating a specific group of sounds to an object or action is a big leap for kids. They’ll all turn into 16-year-old jerks eventually. But if you want to speed the process along a bit, remember that they’re more likely to succeed if they’re having fun, so make a game out of it. Here are some of our favourites:

Name That Relative

All you need is a family photo album. Go through it and name everyone over and over again. “Daddy,” “Mommy,” “Uncle Peter,” “Aunt Becky.” Then go back to the beginning, point at someone and let them say it. They’re the words they’ll be saying most often at the beginning, so you might as well start there.

I Spy

You can work on colour recognition. You can introduce your kiddo to basic words like chair, door, sky, tree and dog. And you can do a little interior design planning: “I spy with my little eye the perfect spot for an end table.”

The Repeating Game

When your little one’s six or seven, she’s going to play the repeating game with you:

You: Time for bed

Her (somewhat mockingly): Time for bed!

You: No, seriously — get upstairs!

Her (very mockingly): No seriously — get upstairs!

You: I’m not kidding!

Her (mocking to the point of cruelty): I’m not kidding!

But when they’re little, it’s your turn. When they say something, just say it back to them — but instead of mocking them, be super-duper excited. After a few times, you can start repeating back to them in different accents and voices. Perhaps you have a hidden talent for doing Cookie Monster or Jack Nicholson?

Of course, the best way to encourage your kids to speak is to read to them. Read anything and everything to them. Goodnight Moon? Yes! The Economist? Why not? Jeff Blair’s latest blog post/rant on Sportsnet.ca? Absolutely! Donald Trump’s Twitter feed? Well…