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5 Easy, Expert-Approved Activities to Improve Your Toddler's Speech Development
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  • Parents these days are more concerned about tracking their toddler’s development and hitting age-appropriate developmental milestones, in particular, speech development.

    Andrea Jurilla, a certified speech language pathologist and speech therapist, has several practical tips how parents of toddlers, young children, and preschoolers can help their kids develop their speech and language skills.

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    5 ways to get your toddler talking

    1. Use “obstacles” to give your kids opportunities to talk

    Parents can create “obstacles”, where they put toys or any of their child’s favorite things (including snacks or other food) in containers that are hard to open and out of their reach. These obstacles give kids opportunities to talk.

    Children will most likely respond by using gestures to point at the containers and using words like, “Please get it,” or “I want,” etc. You can reinforce your child to talk by saying, “Use your words,” or ask questions like, “What do you want?”

    You can also ask, “Do you want that?” when your child points to the object that is out of reach. If he says, “Yes,” ask, “Which one?” Expand his sentences so your child can respond to more words like, “Would you like to reach for this toy, or this bigger toy?"

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    2. Describe everything to your child.

    “Info talk” is when parents and therapists give a continuous narrative of what is going on while they are talking to the child, describing everything that they observe. Your child doesn’t necessarily have to answer or say anything, but this is already an effective way for him to absorb and listen to the various words being used by the parent or teacher.

    3. Expand on your child's ideas.

    When your child says something, don’t end the conversations immediately. Instead, expand or elaborate on what your child has to say. Here’s a sample dialogue.

    Child: Look, it’s a car!
    Parent: Yes, that’s a blue car, and it has a yellow sticker on top. Broom, broom, broom! A boy is driving the car.

    Exchanging sentences or communicating together can also add to the child’s vocabulary. Adding more vocabulary (to what the kids already know and are saying) is what is involved in expansion.

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    4. Let your children correct you.

    If you’re very sure that your child knows the meaning of specific words, try replacing those words during conversations so your child ends up correcting you. This is “sabotage” or “foils,” where you get your child to talk by saying the wrong thing. It’s usually recommended for bigger kids.

    For example, your child is squeezing a small yellow ball and you ask him what he’s doing, but intentionally asking the wrong question. You ask, “What are you doing? Are you throwing the ball?” Your child will correct you and give you the right answer. “No, I am just squeezing the ball."

    It could also be as simple as telling a child that the color of the box in his room is red when it is really blue. Since you will choose words that he already knows, it will be an open door for him to use the words he knows to correct his mom or dad. “No, it is not a red box. It is a blue box.”

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    5. Avoid using gadgets to teach speech.

    The simple exercises above can help parents get their young kids talking and building their vocabulary, but you also need to make an effort to talk to your children more, to engage them and ask questions. It is important that you are the ones to have a conversation with your child, and not use screens as a source for info-talk. Ultimately, it has to be a two-way communication between you and your child.

    These exercises are what Jurilla shares to the parents of the kids she guides in speech therapy and speech pathology sessions. It’s an opportunity for parents to “carry over” or “follow up” on what toddlers can be learning in speech therapy, even before they begin any sessions for speech and language. Use it on your kids and boost their language skills!

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