For some children, speech and language skills come naturally as they interact with family, friends, and the world around them. For other children, however, a little more intentionality is required. While, as with any developmental process, it is important to be alert for serious speech and language deficiencies requiring professional help, there are many things you can do at home to help build your child’s speech and language skills.
Ideas for Building Skills
Here are some simple and practical ideas you can implement in your daily routine.
Speak to your little one clearly. Check your pronunciation of words and correct it. Do not mumble to your little one or speak with your back turned.
Use words slightly above his or her level. Children can understand words long before they can articulate them. A word of caution: Use simple language when you expect obedience. For example, describe the linoleum before you tell your little one to stay off it.
Use picture flash cards with realistic artwork or photographs. Place your little one on your lap, and go through them for a few minutes each day. You can also let him or her place the card with the real object in the house.
Reinforce correct pronunciation. Restate the word back in a conversational question like, “Do you like spaghetti?” Please do not lose sleep over mispronounced words at this age. My brother said “mup and down” when he was a preschooler, and now he speaks four or five languages.
Read aloud to your child. For the littlest ones, picture books will hold their attention. Then transition to books that have fewer pictures. Provide quiet activities for them during listening time. To save time, consider audio books.
Carry on conversations. When your little one tells you something, respond with a question. This shows your interest and keeps the conversation going.
Use books with pictures inserted within the sentence so the child can “read.” It helps them to develop the left-to-right tracking necessary for reading words in a proper context. Furthermore, they feel grown when they “read.”
Encourage your tyke to talk about his or her day. Ask Suzy what she would like to do today. Have Johnny tell dad all about the horses that road by on the road.
Get on the child’s level. Not making eye contact with an adult would be considered rude. So, make eye contact with your child.
Face to Face
Do not rely on TV to teach your child to speak. I heard somewhere that children cannot learn to speak through electronic media, because they must have face-to-face communication. Even if they can learn to speak from the TV, they cannot learn proper conversation flow.
Ask the pediatrician for an opinion on language milestones. He or she will assure you of your child’s progress and point you in the right direction if needed.
Singing helps with voice inflections, rhythm, and auditory development and encourages use of vocabulary through a fun way.
Recognizing similar sounds is an important pre-reading skill and builds correct pronunciation by grouping similarly sounding words together. Practice rhymes by matching up picture flashcards that have similar sounds. Use Mother Goose to build vocabulary, develop imaginations, and introduce alternative sentence structure.
Fill in the Blank
Read predictable stories and let your little one fill in the blanks. Stories that repeat the same phrases like “The Little Red Hen,” “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and “The Gingerbread Boy” are the best.
Encourage your little one to talk and use his or her words. When the tyke points at the milk jug and grunts, ask him or her to say, “Milk, please.” Help him or her to express emotions. Say, “You seem angry that your tower fell. Are you angry?”