A lot of parents tend to talk “at” their kids or read “at” them.
Instead, try communicating with them. Even the littlest ones will respond with coos and smiles.
Let them start directing story time a bit once they get a little older. My daughter loves “reading” stories to her little sister and pointing out things that she finds interesting about the pictures.
Act as if you’re in a conversation. This helps them learn the give and take of speaking with someone.
7) Practice Words
Practice them every day in all sorts of different situations.
Talk about colors, numbers, shapes, people, characters, animals.
Kids learn through repetition so repeat words to your kiddos every day! It won’t be long before they catch on.
Even if they aren’t able to actually say the words yet, their level of understanding will grow quickly.
8) Describe Your Actions
We’ve all had those moments where the baby is next to us while we wash dishes or fold laundry.
Instead of watching TV or being silent, try describing what you’re doing.
“I’m folding the laundry. Look, I’m folding pants. Pants keep your legs warm. You’re wearing pants! Aren’t we so lucky to have pants?”
“I’m washing dishes! When we eat dinner we use plates and forks and cups. Then Mommy gets to wash them to make them clean. Then we get to use them again tomorrow! Soon you’ll get to use plates! You’ll get your own special, big girl plates!”
“I love when you keep me company while I get ready to go to the store. I’m putting makeup on my face. Now I’m brushing my hair so it won’t be tangled. I’m so glad you’re coming to the store with me!”
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” -Catherine M. Wallace
Let them tell you stories. Give them time to answer the question. Wait for the response.
When the majority of the story is baby babble, try to find the word or two you understand and ask them about it.
“I heard you say kitty. Tell me more about the kitty! Did you see a kitty today? Was it orange?”
Sing to them and with them. Use hand gestures. Dance and be silly!
Singing little rhymes and using the hand gestures teaches rhythm, rhyming, and nonverbal communication.
Some of our favorites are:
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
Jesus Loves Me
ABC’s (with sign language letters)
11) Count Everything
Opportunities to count are endless. Each time you count with your little, you’re reinforcing the words themselves, as well as laying the most basic foundation for their mathematical future.
12) Tell Them Stories
My daughter’s favorite part of the day is right before she falls asleep while her daddy tells her stories of gorillas, giraffes, magic stones, and lost kitty cats.
Your child doesn’t care what story you tell, they just want your undivided attention for a few minutes.
If you don’t know where to start, think about the things that interest your child the most and adapt it to a story you already know.
13) Name Body Parts
Talk to them about different parts of their face and body, and try to use correct terms (obviously use your judgment if you have a problem with your little one knowing all the correct terms).
While playing, show them body parts on their toys and talk about them.
“Your baby doll has eyes! Where are the eyes? Can you show me her eyes? Where are your eyes? Where are my eyes?”
14) Use Correct Terms
You can teach your kids that cats are “mew-mews”, OR you can just teach them that they’re called “cats” or “kittens” or even “kitty cats.”
Your kid is smart. Let them learn from you.
Because it’s really cool when your kid busts out the word “helicopter” before their 2nd birthday.
15) Include Them in Conversations
When you’re having dinner with your spouse, try speaking with your child, too. Ask them questions. Praise how well they’re eating. Be silly with them!
Some of our favorite mealtime questions are along these lines:
What did you think about _____?
Did you have fun at _____?
Are you excited about _____?
Tell me more about _____!
16) Avoid Baby Talk
If you speak to your child incorrectly, they will learn to speak incorrectly. They can only learn what they are exposed to.
Avoid using lisps or replacing sounds (“w” sound instead of “r” sound – example: “thwee” instead of “three”). This does not help your child learn to speak.
*Special note* – By all means continue to use varying degrees of inflection in your voice! Babies learn so much when we speak with variation in our voices!
17) Use Nonverbal Communication
Babies love facial expressions, so get out your silly faces!
Facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures teach your child how to communicate nonverbally, which is such an important and vital skill that only enriches their speech development.
18) Positively Reinforce
Praise and respond to your child’s sounds and speech.
When you hear words you understand, repeat them back to your child and ask about them to tell you more about that word.
When they say something really well, let them know! “Wow! You said ‘caterpillar’ really well!”
19) Play with Sounds
Learning about animal sounds helps your child develop the ability to make certain letter sounds, which in turn, contributes to their speech.
Mimic sounds that your child hears daily in their environment.
Exaggerate sounds that you both hear.
“‘Honk honk,’ says the truck!”
“The cow says, ‘Moooooo!'”
“Did you hear the microwave? Beep Beep Beep!”
Practice Makes Playtime into Learning Time
It’s about practice and exposure, involvement and fun.
Make some special time each day to put your phone away and focus 100% on your child.
The baby years are not all about turning your child into an advanced robot.
Just play with them.
Be that mom – the one who talks with her baby often.
Your little one will learn in time.
(Special note – This post is in no way passing judgment if your child is not speaking yet. If you have concerns, please talk to your pediatrician. Again, I am not a specialist. I’m just a mom with a few ideas.)
What are your favorite ways to boost your child’s speech? Let me know in the comments below!