Kids learn to speak at different ages and paces. While your nine month old may be saying, “Dada” already; others may not other those sounds until closer to twelve months (or even after). If you are worried your little one is a bit behind, try some of these effective tips to help their speech take off!
Be sure to read to your child every day. And, for at least 30 minutes. While your baby will probably not sit still for that duration of time, schedule breaks throughout the day, and especially before bed. They’ll be exposed to a variety of sounds, rhymes, patterns, characters, and illustrations that will help their imaginations soar and their word and sound bank broaden.
2. Emphasize Endings
It’s common for toddlers’ speech to lack ending sounds. They focus so much on getting the starting sounds correct, that they totally neglect the endings. While you’re reading, purposely emphasize (loudly) each ending and immediately draw attention to words that your child leaves endings off.
3. Emphasize Beginnings
Blends take some time to sound out, so don’t be afraid to stretch each sound out. For example you’re practicing the word stop, start with the s sound long and loud. Then jump right into making the t sound. Invite your child to join you several times before putting the “op” ending sound together. Stressing beginning sounds is just as important as stressing endings.
4. Play a Lot of Music
When your child is bathing, eating, or even taking a walk in their stroller, always use the opportunity to immerse them with sounds. Songs are a great way to reinforce vowel sounds, teach rhyme, and also just get them singing and saying words they may not have said before.
5. Practice Cloze Activities
Cloze is a reading practice where the reader leaves off the ending word of a sentence so that the listener can fill in the blank. This helps them predict text, join in with the story, and even anticipate rhyme; which ultimately increases and improves speech.
6. Get Rid of Toys that Do
What this means is that toys that “do” are toys that play songs, light up, or move. Basic wooden toys, like trains, cars, a dollhouse, figurines, (etc.) are what your child needs to play with if their speech is lacking by the age of one. These toys require the child to imagine while using them, which gets them speaking and acting. Get down on the floor and play with your child by modeling the think aloud process. Talk about what you’re doing with the toys, encourage dramatic play with them, and engage in a conversation by pretending you’re the car or figurine. Your child’s speech will take off and so will their imagination.
7. Set up a Kitchen
A kitchen is a great idea to promote speech and dramatic play. It’s a great time to introduce your child to new and interesting vocabulary words, and it helps them sort items into categories. Pretend to cook a meal, cut up vegetables, or simply practice naming all the items!
8. Play Phone
Making pretend phone calls is a great way to encourage speech. Model for your child how to use the phone, place a call, utilize wait time, and pace a pretend conversation. Encourage your child to call all of their friends or family members and even take this opportunity to teach them their phone number.
Be positive, be patient, and give each of these tips a try. If your child isn’t responding to your interventions, talk to your preschool about a plan for your child or set up an appointment with your pediatrician to determine what your next step in the right direction should be.