This is a quick post on how to optimize how you teach your child to talk. I’ll explain a couple of really easy to implement strategies on how to help your child learn some of the fundamental skills for talking.
Eye contact is key!
We learn by watching and imitating. We need sustained eye contact to attend and learn, even if its brief at first. The best way to encourage eye contact is getting in the line of sight of your little one. Laying on the floor with them, changing their diapers, having them sit on your lap facing you are all great ways to be in their line of sight in a natural manner.
Say exactly what they say
Try to match the exact squeal/coo/grunt they make. This will be funny for anyone else watching, and it will encourage your child to in turn, make the sound again. Taking turns is one of the earlier developmental steps when your child begins making more varied noises, is going back in forth in a conversational manner with these earlier sounds. Your child makes a squeal, you squeal, and they squeal again. That’s the start of taking turns making sounds.
What they are doing is starting to practice conversational turn taking. I talk, I stop, you start, you stop, I start making sounds again. That’s the premise of conversational turn taking. Going back and forth starting and stopping with words.
Peek a boo!
Anticipating what’s going to be said. This game is repetitive in nature and it involves a predicable, repetitive, back and forth exchange. It involves easy sounds and most important it’s fun. Another foundational communication skill is being able to anticipate that someone is going to do or say something.
Offer “early” easy sounds
What sounds are they making and what sounds are you asking them to make? Early sounds include; squeals, grunts, screams, vowel sounds, some early consonant sounds (i.e. /p/, /b/, /m/, /t/, /d/, /n/, /h/).
Vowels are easier than consonants to produce. Most children start off by producing more vowel sounds earlier on than consonants.
For the purpose of verbal imitation remember two things; start by imitating what they are saying, move to offering really simple early sounds. Your child will most likely start off by imitating vowels, then move into consonant + vowel combinations (i.e. ba, da, ma).
Bring the toy next to your mouth
Bringing a small toy next to your mouth is one of the most effective tips I give parents. As I mentioned above, watching and imitating is how we learn. If your talking about the toy you are playing with while you’re making it move along the ground, the child will most likely be watching the toy on the ground. If we talk about the toy while it’s on the ground, then lift it up next to our mouth and name it, the child’s gaze will most likely follow and they will be inadvertently looking at your mouth/the toy while you speak. Voilà! You’ve just helped shift the child’s attention from the toy on the ground, to your mouth. Holding the toy, you are talking about near your mouth is the best way to get your child to watch you make the name or make sounds about the toy.
For more speech and language tips, follow Speech and Feeding Kids on YouTube.
About the Author
DRAKE HASTINGS M.S., CCC-SLP
Drake Hastings is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in speech, oral motor, and feeding therapy for kids. Drake has a passion for working with children and families while helping children achieve goals using a fun and motivating approach to learning.
Drake’s main areas of focus within the practice are feeding therapy, and speech (sound production) therapy. Drake has experience working with children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria, Down Syndrome, and rare genetic disorders. Drake has experience working and collaborating with a wide variety of families and therapeutic team members while treating children of all ages.