Help your toddler to talk in four easy steps

Help your toddler to talk in four easy steps

My good friend, Nikki, is here today with four easy steps to help your toddler talk. Take it away, Nikki!

Thanks, Social Butterfly Mom, for asking me to be a guest blogger for your “unCOMMON SENSE Parenting” series!  Currently, I am a stay at home mom, but in a previous life, I was a Speech-Language Pathologist in an elementary school and middle school.

There are many ways I use my previous occupation to influence how I speak with my two year old, but you don’t have to be a speech-language pathologist to further your child’s speech and language development. A lot of it is common sense, really.

First of all, I want to stress that every child develops at a different rate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask if it’s ok that their toddler can’t say a certain sound. In most cases, yes, it is perfectly normal!

There is a wide range of what is considered typical in regards to when a child can use different speech sounds. Teachmetotalk.com says that parents should understand at least 50% of what a toddler is saying by their second birthday.  By age 3, parents should understand most (90%) of what a child is saying.  By age 4, strangers should understand most (90%) of what a child says.

Kids depend on their caregivers to model appropriate speech and language usage. Our children learn the foundation for language by listening and using what they hear as a model for future speech and language production. Since we are the ultimate reference for our children, there are four common sense ideas you can implement today!

1) Model correct pronunciation. Sure, it’s cute when your kid says “poon” instead of “spoon”, “nana” instead of “banana”, or “tup” instead of “cup.” I’ve even caught myself saying, “Do you want a nana?” But honestly, I’m not doing him any favors by using the incorrect word. It won’t be nearly as cute when he’s a few years older.

2) Talk about the sounds you hear in words and use visual cues. If my son is leaving off syllables, I start with that first. Clapping as you say each syllable helps your child hear and produce each part of the word. “Base-ball. That’s two claps!”

Working on beginning consonants is another important and easy thing you can do to assist your child. After all, the beginning sound is the most important if you want people to be able to understand your toddler.

If the word starts with a “b,” “p,” or “m,” I touch my lips when I say the first sound. If it starts with a “k” or “g,” I touch my neck. This draws attention to where the sound is made. Kids are very visual so they usually like touch cues like these.

Consonant blends can be particularly hard for little ones, too. I use a hand trick with my son. He has a very hard time with the word “spin.” When saying the “s”, I drag my hand up my other arm to illustrate how ‘s’ is a long sound at the beginning of the word.

Another way I do this is to put both of our hands in fists and hold them out. One fist is “s” and the other is “pin.” We hold our fists far apart at first and say the sound as we make a knocking motion with each fist. Then, we move our fists closer together and knock each fist as we say its assigned sound. Each time, we move our fists closer together. Eventually, our fists are touching and correspondingly, the “s” and “pin” are now touching. When spoken, it should sound like “spin.”

This doesn’t always work right away, but with repetition, he eventually gets it. Even if he doesn’t, I’ve at least taught him that words are made up of separate sounds.

3) If your child is putting words together to make sentences, model more developed language. Expand on your child’s speech by modeling longer and more complex sentences.

If your child says, “I see apple,” respond by saying, “Yes, I see a big, red apple.”  If your child points out the window and says, “birdie,” you can respond by saying, “You’re right, there’s a little bird outside.” We can help our children learn to talk well by showing them how to expand their phrases and sentences.

4) Create opportunities for language! One of my favorite parts of having a two year old is listening to the hilarious things he says!

Point out objects in the environment and show how you can talk about what you see. When walking through the park, comment on what is around you. “Look at that slide. The slide is blue. The slide is really tall.” Ask your child what he or she sees. Before you know it, your kid will be producing amazing sentences like mine did today…”Mommy, I made poopy like a giant circle like a baseball.”

Happy talking!

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