By: Brooke Andrews, M.A. CCC-SLP
When your child has difficulty communicating, it can be stressful for the whole family. The good news is, there are a lot of things you can do at home to help your little one who struggles to talk! Whether your child is in speech therapy or you are simply looking for ways to help your toddler at home, check out the suggestions below.
Commenting: Instead of asking questions (“What’s this?” What’s that?” “What color is this?), try commenting instead. Point out something special about the object (“Look at the star. It’s shiny!”) Toddlers learn new words by hearing them and connecting them to what’s in their environment. By commenting, you provide much richer language input. Try this: Whenever you are about to ask a question, change it into a comment. Ex: Instead of asking, “Is that a bow?” You can say, ”That’s a bow. It’s red!”
Ditch the Batteries: In their 2015 study, Sosa and colleagues found that electronic toys are associated with decreased quality and quantity of language input compared to play with traditional toys and books. In another study, researchers found that play with battery operated toys was limited to functional play (turning the toy on and off, etc.) Language and play skills develop together. Giving children toys that encourage imagination also promote play skills and language. Great examples include dolls, books, and blocks
Read Together: There are so many wonderful holiday books! Don’t worry about sticking exactly to the text. Instead emphasize what is happening on the page and what your see (“Look at the snow! It looks cold!” Brrr!”) If the book has a repetitive phrase, pause and look at your child expectantly to give them a chance to fill in the word. Follow your toddler’s lead by talking about what they are interested in. Re.member, the more toddlers hear the words associated with what they are paying attention to, the more language they learn!
Create together: While baking with a toddler may be more of a mess, letting children participate in jobs they can handle such as mixing and pouring (with help) provides excellent opportunities for language development and sensory experiences (smell, taste, and touch). Having a variety of word types in their vocabulary is associated with better language outcomes. Baking provides many opportunities for adjectives (warm, sticky, wet) and verbs (pour, scoop, mix). Stress these words during the activity (“You’re pouring! Pour, pour pour!”) You can even do this while pretending to cook/ bake with your little one. Simple crafts and activities such as play-doh with cookie cutters are other great ways have fun and stimulate opportunities for language.
Slow Down and Wait: With the rush of the holidays, it can difficult to remember to slow down. However, waiting can be one of the most powerful strategies to promote language and give your toddler and a chance to process information. Waiting does not necessarily mean waiting for a word. Instead you are waiting for your toddler’s best attempt at communication (looking, reaching, pointing, etc.) You can then shape this by accepting their communication attempt and modeling the word for them. Ex: “Oh, you want the cookie. Here’s the cookie.”
Brooke Andrews, M.A CCC-SLP is the owner of The Speech Dynamic, PLLC, a boutique private practice in Houston, TX. She specializes in social communication, language delays and differences, and childhood apraxia of speech. Brooke has presented at various conferences and shares her expertise in her workshops for parents and teachers.