Believe it or not, your child’s speech development isn’t confined in a speech therapist’s office. In fact, speech therapy activities are best done at home, where your child is comfortable. After all, where else would your child want to be than at home with you?
Even if you don’t have a speech therapist yet, nothing’s stopping you from encouraging your child to talk. Here are some recommended speech activities and routines that you can do together at home.
Speech and Language Activities While Bonding with Your Toddler
1) Read Books or Magazines
One of the best toddler speech activities goes back to the basics: reading. Reading aloud to your child will help them listen to how you form words and develop their vocabulary. Learning through reading may even lead your child to be an avid lover of books. They might even request their favorite book from time to time.
When they are already able to form words, encourage them to repeat the words from the book after you. This will help strengthen their articulation and literacy over time. Eventually, you can leave out some words and pause so that your toddler has a chance to speak up and fill in those words.
For the reading materials, you don’t even have to limit yourself to books. Some educational and children’s magazines can also be a good source of reading time. Magazines that are full of pictures are great for looking at together. You can also point at the pictures and ask them “What’s that?” to get them to engage.
2) Play With Your Child
Extra perks come with learning through a fun activity. Some of them include motor skill development, enhanced imagination, and better social skills with less pressure to speak up.
Toys are an amazing way to facilitate play. But, steer clear of battery-operated ones when choosing toys. You want your child to make sounds, and having toys that do it for them will not help with their development. This is especially true for those experiencing speech delays. Stick to toys that encourage:
- social interaction and communication
- usage of motor functions
- imagination and creativity
One classic way to play is using flashcards and blocks. Images and colors printed on these materials encourage word association.
You can also have your child group the cards or blocks together by various categories (animal, fruits, etc.). This will introduce the idea of related words. Plus, moving cards and blocks around will improve your child’s motor skills too.
Don’t forget to let your child lead during playtime. You will help them be confident with making choices on what to play with. It will also be easier to start conversations with them when they are having fun with it.
3) Use Hand Gestures and Sign Language
At around 8 to 9 months of age, children should start using gestures. Teaching them gestures or signs won’t cause a language delay, especially when you link them to spoken words. In fact, it is an effective tool for late talkers to start communicating.
You can start with waving and saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ for simple gestures. You can also create gestures for actions that your child loves doing. For example, you can say “hug” and wrap your arms around you to connect that word with the gesture.
One of the things you can also do to take this further is to teach your child sign language. Focus on words that are easy and functional, like more, help, please, thank you, and even Mom or Dad. Think about which signs would help your child the most.
Signs that are functional to them will encourage your toddler to use them daily. They can start using it to request items they want or need like milk, blanket, or even their favorite toys.
4) Singing and Rhyming
Nursery rhymes and songs can help improve your toddler’s language skills. Singing stimulates a different part of the brain, and the rhythm of songs helps your child remember words better. Some classic nursery rhyme songs you can use include:
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat
- Old MacDonald Had a Farm
- The Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Mary Had a Little Lamb
Songs accompanied by gestures are also excellent for motor skills. Don’t even worry if you’re not a good singer, what’s important is facilitating this interaction with your toddler.
If they can already sing along with you, leave out some of the words, pause and wait for your child to sing the missing words. It gets even better when they can already sing the entire song on their own.
Day-to-Day Speech-Language Practices
Speech learning needs a parent’s support during learning and playtime. But what about other times around the house with your toddler?
You can incorporate many things in your daily lives that can help your child develop their language skills. Here are a few of them:
5) Speak Slowly and Clearly
You can help improve your child’s speech skills when you practice speaking to them slowly and clearly. With the proper articulation, they will pick up on the right sounds to make from the get-go.
Eye contact also helps with communication. Making a proper facial expression helps too, as children also pick up on this and they will imitate it.
6) Introduce New Sounds and Words
As your toddler grows, so does their ability to learn new words. By gradually introducing them, your child won’t feel overwhelmed in remembering them.
You can do this by pointing or picking up items and saying what they are, like lifting a toy ball and saying “ball”. Pointing to yourself and saying “Mommy”/”Daddy” works too, so they can associate the words with the person.
You can also help them learn new words by adding them to learned ones. For example, adding the new word “big” to the learned word “ball” will help them link the words together. Use two to three variations with the same word (“soft ball”, “green ball”) to build further vocabulary.
7) Tell Them What You’re Doing
Whether it’s cleaning the home or even getting dressed, tell your toddler what you are doing. The most ordinary things to you are absolutely new to a learning child. You can also talk about how something looks, tastes, and feels. This will improve their listening skills as well.
When you describe what you are doing, keep it short. You want to speak in phrases that are as long as they can manage to say. Speak and repeat when necessary. It will take patience, but children learn best with repetition.
8) Turn Off the TV
Prevent slow learning by turning off your TV especially when your toddler is in the room. Much like battery-operated toys, it will not help when your child is not repeating what they hear.
TV doesn’t only affect your child: it can also draw your attention away from them. That means less time for you to communicate and bond with each other.
In a study published on JAMA Pediatrics, each hour of TV exposure with sound resulted in fewer vocalizations in children. The study discouraged Tv viewing for children under 2 years in the conclusion. They instead suggest that parents focus on creating an interactive play environment.
Remember: Children are in their best learning state when they are talking to real people at home.
9) Teach Them to Ask For Things
Your toddler most likely wants a lot of things. Whether it’s food or toys, start teaching them to ask for it by letting you know what they want.
One of the ways to get your child to start communicating is to put things out of reach. Place their toys on a shelf or food on an unreachable counter. This will prompt them to call for your help.
Remember to reinforce and enhance the interaction when they do ask for something. If they ask for a banana by pointing, you can confirm “Do you want the yellow banana?” and introduce “want”, “yellow” and “banana” into his vocabulary.
There will be times that your toddler is unsure of what they want, or is having a hard time using words to describe what they want. In cases like this, you can help them with the process by giving them a choice (“Do you want a red apple or a yellow banana?). That way, you make it easier for them to think of words especially when they can imitate what you just said.
10) Repeat and Expand
Earlier we discussed how to introduce new words by linking them with already learned ones. You can also use a similar method to help with new words, which is repeating and expanding.
Repetition is crucial to language learning. Repeat what your child says, and expand on the topic. For example, if your child says, “Dog run!” you can reply with “Yes, the dog is running. He is running very fast.”
Try to keep the expansion sentences as correctly as possible. Like we said earlier, it’s important to speak clearly for your child to learn the words right from the get-go.
What if your child is using baby words? There’s no harm in starting with baby words but you should expand on what they are saying and say the correct word. If your toddler says “ba-ba” while pointing at their bottle, you can repeat (“Do you want ba-ba? Yes, here’s your bottle.)
Nowadays, speech-language pathologists can also be accessible online at home. If you’d like to learn more about how online speech therapy can help your family at home, get a consultation from us. No commitments, no contracts!