There’s a reason toddlers learn many of the same common 50 first words and not words like “taxes” and “intuition”. Children learn words that they hear over and over and they learn words better when words are said in a specific way that tells them the language is just for them. Here are a few ways that Speech Therapists use to help children learn new words that you can use too.
5 Toddler Speech Therapy Tips
Get face to face: Getting face to face allows your child to see your facial expressions and your mouth as you say sounds and words. We’re typically face to face when have conversations with other adults, but with children we are often above them. They miss all of the great information! Getting face to face allows your child to tune into what you are saying
Add a gesture: Gestures help children learn new words! Research shows that when toddlers learned new words quicker when they were paired with a gesture (1). Even more interesting, the toddlers learned best when the gesture looked like the object of enacted what it does (1). For example, making your hand into the shape of a ball or pretending to bounce it instead of just pointing. You can unlock the power of gestures to help your toddler by modeling gestures in your own speech. Pair words with a gesture that matches.
Emphasize the word: Where we position a word in a phrase determines where the emphasis it. Research shows that children learned new words better when the word was at the end of the phrase. Saying the word by itself is also a helpful way to emphasize a word.
Repeat the word: Saying a word several times helps your child hear and process the new word, Aim to say the word 3-5 x during the interaction such as, “Bal!” “That’s your ball!” “Throw the ball!”
Slow down: Slowing down allows your toddler extra time to process the language they are hearing. Talk slower than you typically would and build in pauses to help emphasize new words.
The more we make words stand out, the more your child can put all of their energy towards learning and saying new words (as they’re ready). The strategies above do just that!
Want to track your toddler’s words? Grab my FREE FIRST 50 WORDS CHECKLIST
1 Capone Singleton, N. & Saks, J. (2015). Co-speech gesture input as a support for language learning in
children with and without early language delay. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 22,