Just as a child’s physical growth is essential for good health, speech development is also critical for a full and healthy life. Proper speech doesn’t happen by chance; it takes intentional action from caring parents. These tips can help parents encourage proper speech development in toddler children.
1. Model Proper Speech
Children really do learn the most by observing the world around them. This is true not only when it comes to behavior, but speech development as well. Baby talk can be tempting, as well as reinforcing incorrect pronunciations because of how cute it may seem. However, children can develop bad habits when they consistently hear poor speech coming from the adults they are trying to emulate. Model proper speech by speaking in complete sentences and with correct pronunciations.
2. Encourage the Development of Good Listening Skills
So much of speech and language relies on being a good listener. However, listening does not come naturally to most people and is a skill that must be developed and maintained in children and adults. Teach your toddler to make eye contact when you’re speaking with them and ask open-ended questions often. Encourage them to repeat things back to you, especially when you give instructions. Tell them not to interrupt and to wait to respond at the end. Above all, model these practices when your toddler speaks to you.
3. Focus More on Complete Conversations
Babies and young toddlers are only able to communicate one sound or one word at a time at first. As kids progress towards age three and beyond, it’s easy to fall into old habits of only working on labeling individual items, such as colors, numbers, letters, shapes, or objects. However, children need to hear complete sentences and rich conversations at every age, starting during infancy. Whenever possible, talk to your child in complete sentences and offer explanations instead of sticking to one-word labels.
4. Read Together Often
Reading aloud to children has numerous benefits, including facilitating speech development. Read a variety of books, choosing some that are beyond their level to introduce them to new vocabulary and to help them develop critical thinking skills. It’s important to include options that allow them to interact and participate as well. Even rereading a favorite book again and again can be beneficial for a child as it helps develop good expression while building memory skills.
5. Choose the Right Toys
Toys and devices that do not require much active participation, language, or manipulation can lead to passive play, which does not offer many benefits for children. Toys that light up, play music, or make noise can be fun, but it’s important to have some options that encourage creative interactive play as well. Simple dolls, vehicles, or building toys facilitate a child’s imagination and can encourage more language use during play. This is the perfect opportunity for children to improve their speaking skills.
Just as parents should be proactive about developing a toddler’s speech skills, it is equally important to address potential issues promptly. Enrolling your child in speech therapy can help them build confidence and break bad habits for improved communication. If you think your child may have a speech development issue, contact HEAR Center today. We can help you create a therapy plan that fits your child’s unique speech needs.