Oh hey fellow parent. I’m so glad you found me here. You’ve probably been drawn to the title of this blog for two reasons:
1. You’re one of those over-googled, overachieving, and likely over thinking parents on child development… [Ahem, guilty on all accounts over here too. I feel you.]
2. You’re feeling worried that your kiddo isn’t quite talking as much as some other kids their age, and you want to get some quick tips on what you can do right now to help them out.
You’re in luck. I’m about to give you 6 secrets of a speech therapist. These are some techniques that we use in therapy to encourage speech production, help the late talkers catch up, and improve overall communication between you and your budding conversationalist.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
You get the idea. It’s one of the most basic learning techniques for all of us. As a speech therapist, it’s common for us to name a person/object a few times within a conversation to reinforce the word. For example, “Look at that truck, the truck is so big, the truck says honk-honk, wave hi to the truck!” As a general rule of thumb, the more often your child hears the word, the more likely they are to learn it.
Door Number One… or Door Number Two
Instead of anticipating everything they may want, start giving them choices. By giving them two options (for example, “Do you want milk or water?”), you’re essentially forcing them to express themselves in some way. At first, maybe they just look at the thing they want. The next day, encourage them to point at what they want. Then maybe you have them say what they want. Even if it’s just the first sound, it’s good to get in the habit of increasing your expectations of what they can do communicatively.
Wave Your Hands in the Air… like you really do care!
You may have heard about baby signs and how they can be really effective to get kids to start talking. It’s true. Children express themselves through gestures often before they start saying words. But if you’re not on the baby sign bandwagon, that’s ok!
Encourage your kiddo to use gestures to communicate. This might mean clapping when they’re happy, pointing to what they want or something that they want to show you, waving goodbye when Grandma leaves, or using your arm like an elephant trunk! Embrace your inner-Italian and literally start talking with your hands and have your kiddo imitate you. Using gestures or signs frequently usually means that saying words are right around the corner.
KAPOW! BIFF? ZLONK! (Sound Effects)
It’s true that sounds are the building blocks of words. And sounds are just easier for children to say than full words. So be creative and start using a personal sound byte library during reading and play time. When you’re reading your favorite farm book, get mooing, oinking, and clucking. When you’re playing with cars, be sure to beep, honk, toot, and vroom with the best of them. Encourage your child to imitate these sounds after you!
Leave them hanging…
What I mean is, try to get your kiddo to finish your sentence for you. So for instance, if you’re headed out the door, you might say, “Time to put your shoes on. Where do we put shoes? On our hands? No way! We put shoes on our…” If your kiddo isn’t quite verbal yet, be sure to continue with that dramatic pause that let’s them know you’re waiting for a response. And then just refer to No. 1 (Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!). “We put shoes on our… feet! We need to put shoes on our… feet! You tell me. Shoes go on our…” You get the idea.
Big Faces, Loud Gasps, Total Exaggeration
Our kids think we’re pretty awesome. It’s a fact. At this age, we are their favorite people, so enjoy the moment (as we all know it won’t last forever). Exaggerating emotions is a great way to get them to imitate you, because they think you’re funny! So when the block tower gets knocked down, be surprised. Like, so completely and totally surprised with a big “Uh-oh!!! Oh Noooooo!!” and see if your child can engage in the same drama and repeat what you say.
You can also start making life just a little bit harder for your kiddo. Communication happens in all different ways early on, but some children need a bit of extra encouragement to make that communication happen verbally. So give them plenty of time to use their voices, imitate sounds, and start getting those first words to come.
In general, talk lots! And The Starling has got you covered on helping you know that you’re doing enough talking! Research has proven that the more your child hears, the more they’ll say later on.