Our top 4 tips for helping your child speak more clearly

We hope you had a great Easter!  If you're anything like us, you're still playing with Easter Eggs.  We hope you had a great time trying out our activities with plastic eggs.

Rebecca's little one dying Easter Eggs!

Rebecca's little one dying Easter Eggs!

This week we're sharing four tips for improving your child's speech.  You may be asking:  Are speech and language different?  Why are there speech therapists and speech-language pathologists?  

  • Speech:  How you sound, also known as articulation.  Speech (in the speech therapy world) is known as the sounds or phonemes produced to speak.
  • Language:  The words or vocabulary that make up what you say.  This involves using various types of words to express wants, needs and ideas.
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Today, we want to talk about speech.  We see many questions from parents regarding how to improve their understanding of their child or others' understanding of their child.  Here are four easy techniques to keep in mind to help improve your child's speech (how they sound):

1.  Keep it on their level and forget about manners.  It's OK if your 24-month-old can't say "I want a banana please."  Break it down for them:  "want nana" and model that for them.  The early sounds that parents should be modeling for their children to hear and focusing on include:  B, P, M, W, T, D, and N.  When playing with your child, saying words with these sounds over and over again help them recognize them.  

Additionally, I see a lot of parents push manners from a very early age.  Don't get me wrong, manners are awesome.  We want our child to learn important words like 'please' and 'thank you' but at young ages, the words you teach your child should focus on core words such as food and drink (cracker, banana, milk, etc), people (mama, daddy, grandma, dog-yes, I'm throwing in the dog as a person), familiar items (crib, chair, car, etc) and toys  (ball, baby doll, truck, etc).  As your child begins to expand their vocabulary and master more sounds in words, then you can work the manners back in (especially when your child begins speaking in two to three words:  more milk, please).  

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2.  Don't rely on their ears only.  I like to tell parents that we use all of our systems to process speech.  As much as possible, have your child look at you when speaking so they can pick up on where your lips, tongue, jaw and cheeks are for certain sounds.  Let your child feel your face as you say a word they're having a little bit of trouble with so they can feel how you're producing this.  If your child's hands are on your face, you know they are hearing, seeing and feeling you speak.  Sometimes when our children highly involved in play or another activity, they may not be giving their full attention to how we are making certain sounds in words.

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3.  Repeat, repeat, repeatWe've said it before and we'll say it again.  Children need repetition for learning.  If you're working on incorporating the /t/ and /d/ sounds so your child can hear more of those, grab a toy truck (or any item that could be a pretend truck-toilet paper roll, pen, plastic spoon--a different post for a different day) and start with "drive, drive drive.  I am driving the truck.  I have a blue truck.  Truck, truck, truck goes vrooooom."  

4.  Use singing or a sing-song voice.  You'll hear many Speech-Language Pathologists use singing of normal songs such as nursery rhymes during sessions.  We also like to pair singing or a sing-song voice to phrases when we're working with children.  I find this does several things (my own incidental findings):  1.  Focuses the child more than speaking in a normal tone 2.  Can calm most children if they are upset.  The article cited below explains how researchers in this study found two of the same brain systems process language and music.  This could be related to increased language learning when music and singing are utilized.  It's no surprise that your parents sang to you as a child.  Singing has been passed down over the generations as a way to calm children and possibly, to help them learn new words and vocabulary.  

Example:  While playing with trains on an inclined track, vary your voice increase your pitch while saying "The train is driving up, up up!" several times while moving the train or having the child moving the train.  

We hope you find these strategies helpful while helping your little one develop speech sounds.  Remember, if your parent gut says that your child isn't quite where he or she is supposed to be in speech, language, cognitive or social development, please seek out a speech-language pathologist in your area.  Feel free to contact us at toddlertalkingtt@gmail.com.  Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @toddlers.talking and Facebook for more great information!