Updated: Sep 7
Tried and true parent/caregiver strategies speech-language pathologists (SLPs) use to increase toddler talk at home!
The frustration of not being able to express themselves (yet) is real. We get it! At Speech SF, we've helped hundreds of parents grow their toddler's speech at home. Through thousands of speech therapy sessions, we've seen success and the power of parent education.
We've a pulled a few of our favorite parent speech tips you can use today! When trying our tips at home, notice what works best for your toddler. If one doesn't feel like a fit, move on to the next!
As always, these tips are for educational purposes only and are not a replacement for speech and language therapy.
Tip #1 - Create "Communication Opportunities"
This is our number one tip for a reason. Communication opportunities are little moments in a child's day where they have the option or desire to communicate. More great news- communication opportunities can be created and added seamlessly into a toddler's daily routine. Here are a few of our most-used SLP strategies to get you started:
"Forget" something: Give them their plate without food on it, a cup without liquid in it, or bring part of their favorite toy(s) to the play area, but leave the rest in a bin or out-of-reach spot.
Wait: As adults, we naturally tend to fill in moments of silence or know exactly what our toddler wants. To create a communication opportunity, instead of grabbing the desired item, opening the food package, or pushing their swing, we need to pause and wait. First see what happens and wait longer (ten seconds!). Still silence? Model how they can communicate what they want, at their level (more on this below).
Create a fill-in-the-blank: This is a sub-category of waiting and is equally powerful.
***knowing their current level: If your child is already using the words, "go" or "more", these short words are a great place to start. Too easy? Add on words as they are successful with one. If your child is not yet using words, maybe they can make a sound "o" for "go" or show you a sign or gesture such as a point. The goal is to get some form of communication from the child to resume, get an item, or help them.
Tip #2 - Label, label, label
Research continues to tell us how important a caregiver's verbal labeling (i.e. saying the name of a person or thing out loud) is to language development. Think about your toddler's daily routine and make a list of ten focus words. These should be things that mean something to them and show up often. For example, if your toddler isn't interested in, or around chickens a lot, but you have a family dog, the work "dog", "puppy", or "woof woof", the dog words are going to be both more meaningful and useful to them.
"For all children, the number of words primary caregivers directed to them at age 2;6 predicted vocabulary size at age 3;6" – SHNEIDMAN, ARROYO, LEVINE, & GOLDIN-MEADOW, (2013). Cambridge University Press.
Tip #3 - Give them choices
Caregivers often know what their child wants. Don't fall into the trap! (We're just kidding, kind of). Let us explain, say your toddler wants an apple, they point to the apple or bring you to it. This is a great start! If you'd like to raise the bar, and make it a little more challenging, try the following choices (listed in increasing difficulty):
Ask them a "yes" or "no" question: "Do you want an apple?"
Ask them a "what" question and model 2 choices, one word each: "What would you like? Apple or banana?" or "How many? One or two?"
Ask them a "what" question and model 2 choices, two words each: "What would you like?" More apple or all done?"
Tip #4 - Add in signs
Contrary to popular belief, no, signs will not delay your child's speech. Adding in sign language gives them a way to communicate if they are not yet able to verbally. If your child is new to signs, start small with two signs and then expand. Starter signs could include "yes" and "no" (head nod and shake work, too!), "eat" and "drink", or "more" and "all done". Remember to model a lot before asking your child to make the sign.
Tip #5 - Reach out
Home strategies for growing toddler's speech. If you are concerned, the progress is slow, or there is regression, reach out to an SLP to see if formal speech and language therapy is recommended.
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