1. Talk, Talk, Talk!
The more language your child hears means the more language your child understands (receptive language) which will turn into the more they will say (expressive language).
Modeling, Labeling and Repeating ALL DAY! (This is my number one tip!)
While any talking is good talking, modeling, labeling and repeating are the very best for helping your child!
Modeling- Model the language you want your child to use. When they come to you and want something model it- 1-3 word phrases are the best.
Example #1- “You want UP? I’ll get you UP. Now you are UP” You’ve now modeled the word “UP” for them three times in the correct context. You can do this all day in all different situations for so many different words! Example #2 “Go get the BALL. Mom got the BALL. Bounce the BALL. You love the BALL”
This will maybe make you feel like a crazy person because it will keep you talking all day long, but it is so great for speech and language development! Model everything! Model everything you see, do, your child does and other things/people do. I try to use more simplistic language too (remember 1-3 word phrases), but any talking is good!
Parallel Play- Talk about, model and label what your child is doing.
Self talk- Talk about, model and label what YOU are doing.
Example #2- “Do you want Lunch? Let’s get lunch. Do you want cheese? Here is the cheese. Eat your cheese. I got you water. Drink your water. Good Job! You want more? Here is more. All done? Ok all done! Time to get out.”
Labeling- Label objects, animals, people, pictures- basically anything and everything! Label while out about, while in your house, while READING!! (I’ll talk more about this in a bit), whenever!
Toddlers brains are like sponges, they can soak up SO much! But the best way to capitalize on this is, while labeling many things, to choose a handful of words to focus on at a given time. This will help them acquire the receptive and then expressive language! For instance, I choose to start with words that are common to my child and that begin with the earliest developing speech sounds (m,b,d,p). So, some of the very first words I chose to focus on and label/model more were mama, dada and ball.
Repeating- When your child does use a word or language freak out! Positive reinforcement is great! As part of that positive reinforcement repeat the word at least a few times. Example –“Yes, that’s a DOG! You love the DOG. Cute DOG!” This repetition helps them to know that they used the word correctly and sets them up to use it again successfully.
This is all also true for babies! I started modeling babbling sounds when Lila was only a few weeks old (probably too early for it to make much of an impact but I’m a speech therapist haha) I would model sounds like “Ma” “Da” “Pa” “Goo Goo” etc. And I would also replicate or copy any sounds she made to reinforce sound production. Basically baby talk with them! Baby talk and babbling are the foundation for spoken language.
2. Create situations that Promote language production!
Often children use grunting or pointing to express themselves rather than using language. When giving therapy (and in my home), I like to create and use situations that require kids to use language to get what they want. Snacks, toys and other things can be kept up out of reach but in sight. Use snacks and toys that require your help to open or use. I love keeping toys and other favorite objects in clear boxes like these so that your kids can see exactly what’s inside but need your help to get them out. There is nothing better to get language than motivation!
When your child starts pointing or grunting for something out of reach say “do you want UP? Get UP? Say UP!” Then WAIT. Give your child 5-7 seconds to respond. If they don’t say UP that’s ok! You say model it for them! “I’ll pick you UP. UP”
IMPORTANT: Language should always be positive! If your child doesn’t say a word when you want them to don’t withhold the reward! They will begin to equate language as something negative and we don’t want that ?
When your child grunts or points for an object inside the clear box say “Should we get it OUT? Do you want it OUT?” Wait to see if your child says OUT. If they do open that box right away and repeat the word with positive reinforcement. “Yes! Let’s get it OUT. We got it OUT of the box. You got it OUT”.
You can also use this with lots of different toys! One of my favorites is a ball drop toy like this one. Kids LOVE them! When your kid loves something use it to your advantage to pull out some language! So for the ball drop I would control the balls which is what makes the toy fun. The kids want the ball so they can watch it roll down to the bottom. I would hold all the balls and then try to elicit the word BALL the whole time we’re playing.
At first, I would model it over and over and over again while playing with it. “Do you want the BALL? Here is the BALL. Put the BALL here. The BALL goes down. BALL (pointing to it as it falls). Then, as you know they know the word BALL, you can start asking them to ask for the ball like in the examples above.
Bubbles are also MAGIC for eliciting language! Kids will say anything to get you to blow those bubbles! I often asked them to say or sign “MORE”
3. Read, Read, Read!
Reading books to your kids is one of the very best ways to help them get talking! Start young and read for AT LEAST 15 minutes per day with them.
All books are good but some books are better! Below are some of my favorite books for helping toddlers birth and beyond to acquire language. They have simple, real-life pictures, repetitions, rhymes and kids LOVE them.
All other books by these authors and publishers are equally as good!
4. Get on their level.
Get down on the floor to play with them or when you talk to them. This helps them on so many levels. It helps them to know you are focused on them and what they are doing. It helps them to watch the way you produce language (yep they’ll watch your mouth and try to copy you). This is where Parallel Talk (defined above) comes in really handy!
5. Sign Language is a great stepping stone to Spoken Language.
Kids will get frustrated when they want to communicate and they can’t so sign language is a great tool to help them communicate while they’re still developing spoken language! The production of spoken language is a very complex neurological task. So while their brains and bodies are learning how to perform such a complex task sign language is a great tool! Communication is communication! Your child using sign language will not keep them from producing spoken language! They support one another ?
My final point is not really a tip to help your kiddos get talking but for you mamas! Be patient with yourselves. If your child is not reaching speaking milestones it is NOT YOUR FAULT. Many kids have delayed speech development and end up needing a little help from Speech Language Pathologists to get back on track. You are doing your best!