Easy Language Activities to Help Your Toddler Talk
As a developmental specialist there are simple language activities that I recommend to parents that can help build their child's communication skills.
Here are easy to use speech tips that can help your toddler build his communication skills and reach his speech milestones.
The first strategy is a question; "How much does your toddler need to talk to get his needs met?
Parents and caregivers often anticipate the needs of their toddlers so they don't have to use communication.
When he's hungry or thirsty do you just hand him his cup or food? Not needing to communicate is a primary environmental factor for speech delays in toddlers.
When you know he wants something wait and see how your toddler deals with not getting immediate gratification. When he starts to show small signs of frustration follow the below strategies.
Remember a little frustration makes a person work harder, too much makes them give up. Be careful to raise the bar just high enough to encourage not discourage.
The choices strategy is a simple language activity to use. You start by holding up two objects. One object should be the one you are fairly certain he is requesting. The other object should be allowable and familiar to the child.
For example, your toddler wants a apple. You pick-up a banana and an apple. Then you bend down to eye level with your toddler hold the two objects by your face and say "What do you want?" Count to yourself to 10 or 15. Waiting for any response.
If you don't get a response say the object's name once or twice and give it to him. We do not want tears or screams. This is not a battle.
If your toddler glances at the apple great but be prepared to give him the banana if he goes that way. That is why you need to pick two objects that he can have. Reinforce the glance by saying "You want the apple","apple." then reward him by giving it to him. When your toddler glances at requested objects consistently we can raise the bar.
The next response we are working for is a point or reach.Hold the 2 objects up to your face when you are still on eye level with your toddler and again say "Which one do you want?" but this time do not reward the glance right away. After the glance count to your self again.
Help your toddler move from glancing at the desired objects to point to or reaching for it by moving the objects forward after you ask him which one he wants. You can also take his hand and have him touch the desired object. If your toddler understands what touch it means you can request that he touch the one he wants.
This will begin to lay the foundation for the understanding of the need for and the power of communication.
OTHER EASY TO USE LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES
Get rid of the pacifier. (Alright, maybe this isn't so easy but it is necessary.) If you can't bring yourself to do this yet then limit it's use to bedtime and for soothing only.
Pick high motivating factors like food, a favorite toy or outside play to begin with. Start slowly with just a few motivating events per day and build up.
Sign language is a popular language activity used often to bridge the gap between limited or no words and the need to communicate. It does not delay words from developing but rather encourages communication. When you use sign language always pair the sign with the word.
Sabotaging the environment is an effect language activity that gets fast results. This means setting up situations where your toddler needs to ask for help to get something he wants. You might need to put his favorite toy, movies or food up out of reach. Remember to leave them where he can see them but not get to them. Really independent toddlers often do not need to communicate because they can get everything for themselves. Watch out for the chair or stool that toddlers use to reach what they want so they don't need your help.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WORDS?
I know all parents want the words but the strategies listed above are pre-language activities and are the foundation for your toddler's functional use of communication later.
Alright, now lets talk about strategies you can use to help your toddler begin to form words.
When toddlers begin to attempt to use words to communicate they rarely pronounce the words correctly from the beginning. Like most things in life, speech takes practice.
The first language activity is to encourage any and all speech attempts. The more practice your toddler has at forming words the better the clarity should become and the more words he will form.
When your toddler makes verbal attempts to communicate something to you and you don't have a clue what he just said here is what you need to do. Validate his attempt by saying something back to him that is positive and possible fits into the moment. It doesn't matter if it is about what he was trying to say just acknowledge the attempts. This builds confidence and reinforces the need for communication.
Open ended questions are great for building the need and desire to use words. When you just ask "yes" or "no" questions that is all your toddler really needs to say. Try asking who,what and where questions and waiting for responses.
When your toddler has a few single syllable words like ma,da or ba try shaping these sounds into two syllable sounds like mama, dada or baba.
Use situations that are fun and/or functional to use language activities. When its bath time or mealtime are great word builder situations. Pick words to reinforce that mean something to your toddler like more,eat,go,ball,book,up,down and done. These are a few of the most common functional words I recommend parents begin with.
Give your toddler time to form a response. It takes practice to make your ears, brain and mouth work together so give them time.
Using choices is still a valid language activity at this time. If your toddler is making choices by pointing or reaching you can go to the next step. This is expecting your toddler to make a speech attempt to request the wanted object. At first, accept any sound that your toddler makes and praise him for his attempt.
When your toddler has consistently given you a verbal attempt for 5-7 days raise the bar. This is where we take the sound and begin shaping it. You can do this by following the above exchange but instead of accepting the usual speech attempt right away repeat the name of the object correctly and ask your toddler to say it too. Give him enough time to respond by counting to 10 to yourself. If he makes any sound that is different from the usual verbal attempt take it and praise it. If he doesn't make any new sounds repeat the name of the object then give it to him. No frustrations no battle lines please. Continue to do this process waiting each time for a new sound.
These are very basic language activities and strategies that can help you help your toddler to meet his speech Milestones and learn to communicate functionally. They are not meant to take the place of a professionals advice or guidance. Please speak to you health care professional about the speech concerns you may for your toddler. There are many reason why a toddler may be delayed in developing language. Some of these reasons are as simple as the environment while others are as serious as health concerns.
Lastly, I want to note that each state has a birth to three early childhood development program. It is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA) know as Part-C. This program is co-funded through the federal government and each state. The program normally offers a free developmental evaluation to any child in which a parent,caregiver or medical professional has a concern about. Each state has a different name for their program but the national directory can be found at
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