Many times I have parents ask me how they can help their baby or toddler learn to talk. In this post, I want to help you by giving you a few of the things I do when working with babies and toddlers in speech therapy. My job is to help facilitate the emergence of speech sounds and eventually language through play! Play is your baby’s world! I remember when I had my first daughter. I was working almost full time and would come home from work so tired. My play times with her looked more like nap time for mommy! I had such good intentions! I knew what to do as a speech therapist, but it was just a matter of doing it and not falling asleep. My mom reminded me just how important it was to give my daughter my best attention and be the best playmate for her! So I made the effort. I’m a speech therapist, but I’m also human! After a long day of speech therapy, meetings, paperwork etc. I was tired. I know how demanding it is to be a busy mom. I just want to encourage you to devote some extra time to play with your baby or toddler where you use these simple and very effective tips to help your child learn to talk. You can do it! It is all just play! We aren’t going to bust out any flashcards just yet! haha. Just have fun with your baby! Smile and laugh and make your time together the best part of both of your days! It will be so worth it. I promise.
When you play with your baby or toddler, you can be doing the following things to help them learn to talk: I have set it up by giving you the goal of the play time and then what you can do to help achieve that goal.
GOAL: For your child to imitate animal/environmental sounds
WHAT YOU DO:
While playing with farm animals and a barn or any toy animals (farm animals/zoo/wild animals) you want to frequently make the sound of the animal for your child to try to imitate. Even if they can’t imitate yet, it’s ok, just keep modeling the sounds, play and have fun:
“What does the bear say?” “GRRR!”
“What does the cow say?” “MOO!”
“What does a ducky say?” “QUACK!”
You can model the sounds the animals make while pretending to make them eat, run, sleep, etc. For environmental sounds the concept is the same. Cars go “zoom”, wipers go “swish”, vacuum goes “vrrroom”, train goes “choo-choo”, water goes “splash” etc.
GOAL: For your child to increase the consonant sounds in their babbling
WHAT YOU DO: If you notice your baby is babbling only a couple of sounds, you can work on expanding the sounds in their babbling by imitating them and then adding new consonants and vowels. For example, baby says, “da-da” and isn’t really saying mama yet or using other consonants in their babble. You can then repeat the sounds they have said (da-da) and then add 1 or 2 more. For example, say, “da-da, ma-ma, ba-ba, pa-pa!”
GOAL: Encourage circles of communication and joint attention
WHAT YOU DO: Encourage back and forth communication between you and your baby. This can be done by simply talking with your child as if you were engaging in a real conversation! Answer their babbles and coos and goos with a response then wait for them to “answer” back. Ask them questions and respond to their vocalizations as if they were fully interpretable as real adult words! As they get a bit older, you can engage in joint attention activities where you share attention while playing with a certain object. Play together in way that you are both communicating about the same thing. Even if you don’t know what a gesture or vocalization means, you give it meaning. In other words, you interpret it the best way you can through your words as if you were giving the play by play to a sports event!
GOAL: For your child to learn simple songs, predicable books, and nursery rhymes
WHAT YOU DO: My tip for this goal is to sing all those songs you know from your childhood. I will give you a list of my suggestions below. Songs can be sung all the time! While changing diapers, in the car, while playing on the floor. The more often you can sing the same songs the better. Repetition is the key with this goal. You will be singing and reading the same 5 songs or books literally 100’s of times! This is normal and this is good! I know what you are thinking…”I can’t keep reading that book! I’m sick of it!” And yes, you will be so tired of Goodnight Moon you will be reciting it in your sleep! But the repetition is what gives your child the opportunity to “learn” the song or book and eventually they will “read” it to you!
SONGS/NURSERY RHYMES: ABC Song, Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle-Twinkle, Jesus Loves Me, Old McDonald had a Farm, If You’re Happy and you Know it, Where is Thumbkin, Itsy-bitsy Spider, Ba Ba Black Sheep, Sing a Song of Sixpense, Row-Row-Row Your boat, Jack and Jill went up the hill and there are, of course, many more!
BOOKS: Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you see, (there are also two more similar books called “Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do You Hear, and Panda Bear, Panda Bear What do You See.) Goodnight Moon, The Little Blue Truck books – any simple stories that are predictable and use rhyme. Books that do not rhyme are also still very good! I read both to my own kids and clients. Shorter books are better for babies and toddlers.
I hope you will try these tips as you help your baby or toddler learn to talk. This post includes general tips, but I always recommend contacting your local speech-language pathologist if you have any concerns about your child’s development. Let me know if you have any questions! Have fun!