Top ten ways to help your child's speech / language skills progress all day every day:
1) Remember - every moment is a learning opportunity.
2) Giving your child choices is an easy way to create communication opportunities. For example, do you want yogurt or cereal? The blue shirt or the red shirt? It also helps him feel like he has some say in what happens during his day.
3) If your child mispronouces a word, have him watch your mouth when you say it. Watching gives him a way to SEE how to make the sounds in addition to just HEARING it. Keep it fun and silly whenever possible.
4) Read WITH your child, not TO your child. Sit face to face and make it an interactive experience. Ask questions at the end of each page, ask her to point to pictures, ask him to say new words.
5) Set aside 5-10 extra minutes to get dressed, eat, and dress. The less rushed you are, the more you can enjoy those special moments and teach your child new words.
6) Focus - when your child is just starting to speak, around 12 months, focus on a few target words in any particular word category at a time. For example, pick 3 body parts to work on each week. Start with your face such as eyes, nose, mouth, ears. Focus on 3 toy names each week, three foods, etc. Repeat those target words as often as you can.
7) Fight the urge to anticipate your child's needs. Wait. Give him 5 extra seconds to try to get his shoes on, 5 extra seconds to get that puzzle piece in. It's a win- win situation. You're teaching your child to persevere, not give up. Maybe he'll get those shoes on when you weren't expecting him to. Maybe he'll get that apple sauce on his spoon and into his mouth for the first time. If not, you've just created an opportunity for him to ask for help, or say Help mommy, or mommy please help me.
8) Be sure you're at the right level of expectation. If your child isn't talking yet, reduce expectations a little and just ask him to imitate one sound in a target word vs asking him to imitate a whole word. If he's talking but tries to communicate by grunting sometimes, don't accept the grunt. Remind him to talk, pretend you're not sure what he's trying to say. Wait for him to use words. If he has 20 words in his vocabulary, it isn't the time to ask him to produce a full sentence. Talking is like walking. You don't ask your baby to run across the room when he's only just taken his first step. Toddlers need to learn about 50 words before they can be expected to put two words together. Then they start saying three word phrases, then four and on and on.
9) Review your day each nigh. Take pictures during your day so you can run through them each night and talk about your day. Snap a picture of the Safeway sign as you're walking in. Take a picture of him when he's at his swim class or at Gymboree. Take a picture of your sister who you visited at the park. Reviewing your day is a wonderful fun way to remember things in the past. You can then talk about what will happen tomorrow as well.
10) Teach your child better speech and language skills during your daily routines, eating, dressing, bathing, grocery shopping, car rides, etc. No need to do flash cards. The most natural times for babies and toddlers to learn are during daily routines and play.
Shannon Kong, MS, CCC
CEO Seven Bridges Therapy