Baby talk was cute when they were starting to put words together, but your little one is getting older and still says “wabbit” instead of “rabbit”.
Should you be worried?
Developing communication skills takes time. Some children begin making cute little sounds early on, while others may remain quiet for longer than expected.
While some issues may require the help of a professional, speech therapy at home can help support your speech pathologist’s efforts and can also be good for tots experiencing mild speech and language delays.
Why speech therapy at home is important
If your toddler isn’t speaking beyond one to two years old, it could mean a delay in their speech or language development.
Professional help is necessary for serious issues like speech regression. However, even with speech therapy, sessions are typically 30 minutes to an hour once a week.
Therefore, parent involvement at home is crucial to ensure continued progress in the child’s daily life.
Simple speech therapy for kids exercises
1. Offer Choices
If your tot is struggling with developing a vocabulary, then asking them to come up with a response off the top of their head might be a problem.
Give your kiddo choices instead of asking an open-ended question. Instead of asking, “What shoes would you like to wear today?” say, “Would you like to wear your polka-dot shoes or your red ones?”
This way they have options and they don’t get anxious trying to come up with an answer.
When they do make a selection, ask them to answer you in a full sentence. You could even get them started a little.
2. Name the Object
When teaching your little one the names of objects, pick it up and place it next to your mouth as you say its name.
Your tot will learn to make the connection between the item and how the word is sounded out by your mouth.
3. Don’t Jump When They Point
For many of us, the moment our kiddos point at something we jump to get it for them. It must be a mum, caregiver instinct.
However, by doing so, we’re not allowing them to use their words and develop their speech.
So, next time your tot points or grunts at something, instead of anticipating what they need, stop and ask them what it is that they want.
4. Model Proper Sentences
Kids are sponges! They take in everything from their surroundings.
So what better way to help them with their speech development than to speak in simple, grammatically correct sentences?
As you do so, you’ll also be helping them with their language expansion. If your tot is starting to put two words together, then add to it as you repeat what they’ve said.
For instance, if they say “Mummy, up!” you say, “Yes, mummy will pick you up.” If they say “More.” You can ask, “More what?” or “More milk?”
Also, refrain from using baby talk, especially with older tots.
5. Narrate Actions
Describe what you’re doing as you go through your day. Tell your tot what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.
Even if your little one is not vocal yet, they will begin to associate language with actions or with things.
6. Help Part of the Way
Doing something for your tot only part of the way, especially if it is something they enjoy, will motivate them to verbally express what they want.
If you’re playing with bubbles or making a sand castle and you suddenly stop, it’ll prompt them to ask you to continue.
This allows them an opportunity to increase develop their language skills and their attention to the task.
7. Sing with Them
Pick a song, any age-appropriate song, and just sing your lungs out!
Repetition is your friend and what better way to practice new words and pronunciation than with a fun song? Just make sure you know the lyrics.
Have fun, and if your kiddo mispronounces a word, simply say it correctly when it comes up again.
8. Read Together
Read anything together. During the day, at bedtime, anytime is a good time for reading!
Reciting poetry to your tot can be a fun way to help them with language development. Choose fun, simple rhymes and be sure to pronounce the words carefully. Also, make emphasis and pauses at the right places.
When reading a story, make it lively and interactive. If your little one isn’t speaking much yet, ask them to point to specific images on the pages.
If they can speak but not read yet, ask them to describe the pictures or tell you about what you just read. Ask them questions or come up with alternate endings. You can be as creative or silly as you like.
If they’re old enough to read, take turns reading to each other. Not only will reading help their language and speech development, but it will allow you to bond, and instill in them a love for language and reading.
9. Give and Take Directions
At about two years old, kiddos start following two-step directions.
So, go ahead and practice giving them simple directions, such as “Can you go to your bedroom and bring me Teddy?” or “Can you pick up that candy wrapper and throw it in the trash?”
Alternatively, you can have them give you directions. This will not only help with their self-confidence but also develop their analytical and logical thinking skills.
If they ask for a snack, you can say “Can you tell me where to get it?” Or, if they ask for their plushy, you can say “Can you tell me how to find it?”
10. Practice Sounds
It’s normal for kiddos to have difficulty making certain letter sounds. If your tot is struggling, you can have them repeat the letter sound by itself, such as “s.”
Once they’ve mastered the sound by itself, you can add syllables, “sa-sa-sa” or “so-so-so.”
Then, you can move on to simple words. The key here is repetition and patience.
11. Develop Their Muscular Strength
Developing clear and proper speech requires muscular strength in the mouth.
A good way for your tot to build their mouth muscles is by sucking liquid or blowing air through a straw.
They can also try blowing on a ping pong ball. You can make it a fun, competitive game to see who can move it the furthest away.
Does my child need speech therapy?
Not all children reach their developmental milestones at the same time. However, if your tot is not speaking after two years of age, it may be time to seek the help of a professional to determine the nature of their speech delay.
At-home speech therapy techniques may prove effective in helping your tot with mild speech and language delays. They can also support your speech pathologist’s efforts.
To find a speech pathologist, you can use Speech Pathology Australia’s ‘Find a speech pathologist’ service.
You can also call Speech Pathology Australia on 1300 368 835. A referral is not usually necessary and, in some cases, Medicare may cover some of the costs.
Types of Speech and Language Problems
There are many ways in which speech and language issues can manifest themselves in children. Here are a few:
- Not being understood by others
- Not understanding what people say to them
- Difficult to hear, voice too husky or breathy
- Inadequate social skills
- Speaking and listening issues
- Reading, spelling, and writing issues
- Difficulties swallowing food and drink
- Need help feeding
Things to Consider When Starting Speech Exercises at Home
Doing speech therapy at home is beneficial to all children, regardless of whether they’ve been diagnosed with a speech or language issue. Here are a few things to consider if you do decide to incorporate home speech therapy into your child’s routine.
Your Tot’s Age
Consider your tot’s age when practising speech exercises at home. Young children may need interactive and fun activities to stay focused. Keep exercises brief. For older children, explaining the benefits of improved communication can increase participation.
Your Child’s Personality
If you have a child who is easily exasperated, they may not do well with home speech therapy because they will not have the patience or endurance to follow instructions or participate.
They may see the interaction as a negative experience, instead of a helpful one.
What Type of Speech Involvement is Required?
Before starting on a home speech therapy strategy, consider your tot’s needs.
Are they experiencing a speech delay – underdeveloped vocabulary for their age? Do they have an articulation issue – use “c” sound instead of “s”?
Figuring out their issue will allow you to come up with an appropriate plan.
If your child has other developmental conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, home speech therapy alone may not be sufficient. You may require the help of a speech pathologist to come up with an effective strategy.
Create a Positive Environment for Speech Therapy at Home
Create an environment that is conducive to participation and learning by acknowledging their strengths, being patient, and offering encouragement.
Listening to them, and offering smiles, praise, compliments, and hugs go a long way in building their self-confidence.
Remove distractions and background noise to make room for a calm, peaceful environment where your tot can feel safe to practice and make mistakes.
No one is at their best when the TV is blaring, the dog is barking, and other kids are screaming, or running around.
Not all home speech techniques will be effective for your child. You can experiment and mix and match the ones that work for you and your tot.
Kids are constantly growing and changing. So, while one technique may work for some time, you may end up having to switch things up to keep them engaged.
Remember, every child is different. They have varying needs, abilities, and learning preferences. Have fun with it and be flexible, nothing has to be written in stone.