The normally innate ability of children to learn how to speak can be one of the joys of parenthood in early childhood development. And while children learn how to speak at varying rates, even within a single family, there are important ways to improve toddler speech development. The following tips are recommended to encourage children who don’t have visual or hearing impairments. If your child has difficulty with steps such as these and is showing delayed speech development, it is always constructive to have their hearing and vision tested.
5 Ways To Promote Toddler Speech Development
Guest post by Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., who is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy, a leading provider of school-based therapy and early intervention services.
1. Make the right sounds
Encouraging your baby by making vowel and consonant sounds where they can see your face and mimic the sounds you make is an easy and important way to give your child proper speech foundations. Simple phrases such as “ma” and “pa,” or short combinations such as “mama” and “dada” are the best, because your child can see and hear how the sounds are made, and copy them.
2. Be responsive
Even from a very young age, children appreciate and need response from their parents and family members to develop speech and language. That means paying attention to the sounds your child is making on their own, and even imitating them in return. That brings your child into the world of communication.
As your child develops, two things are critical to their speech development. Attention from the people to whom they are speaking and responsiveness—gentle repetition or spoken correction—as they go forward.
3. Give your toddler full focus
When you talk with your child during daily activities it assures them that you are fully present, especially as you feed them, change their diapers or put their clothes on for the day. Avoid distractions during these critical moments of interaction with your child because speech development depends on your focus as you react and respond as your child learns to communicate.
Using categories of things to help focus your child on how to understand their world is one of the best ways to remain in constant, positive communication. Find things to talk about such as groups of objects, as you might recall from programs like Sesame Street. Helping your child focus on speech development is really about sharing or celebrating knowledge of the world in ways that are comfortable, and building confidence as your child rehearses and expands their vocabulary.
4. Laugh and be expressive
Laughing and being expressive with your child is an important aspect to promote speech development in children because it puts the learning experience in a positive framework. It’s okay to enjoy a laugh together even when a child gets a word wrong. Simply repeat it and ask them, “How did you say it?”
Being expressive with your face and gesturing with your hands helps stimulate your child’s mind to learn, imitate, and respond to positive emotions. That’s why classic games with elements of surprise such as peek-a-boo are popular with small children. It allows them to enjoy interaction and they will often imitate the game on their own.
5. Be a reader, a storyteller and a listener
Bedtime stories that focus on simple catchphrases or participatory humor can be great tools for encouraging interaction with your child. Even before your child can talk, telling stories that have familiar moments of gestures and big expressions contributes to their love of language as a bond with you.
Reading books together, starting with picture books and later moving to more complex stories, is one of the greatest ways for speech development to occur. As your child begins to read along or repeat parts of the story they remember, you can listen closely to how they handle critical speech components, checking for slurs, lisps or unclear pronunciation. As you respond with the correct pronunciation your child can listen and learn in close proximity. Reading stimulates both speech and comprehension skills and is one of the most important bonds you can share with your child.
Promoting speech development in children is one of the most important roles a parent or other caregiver can play in the life of a child. And while there are a thousand other ways to encourage your child to speak and listen well, these basics are a great foundation for overall speech, social and psychological development. It’s a big world, and sharing it in words is a great way to help your child learn how to talk well and communicate throughout their entire life. I hope you find these tips to improve toddler speech development useful and feel free to share your experiences with this topic in the comments.