When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had worked as an Early Intervention speech therapist for over ten years. I pictured myself playing on the floor all day, much like I do in therapy.
Flash forward to today and being a mom is nothing like I pictured. Some days I’m low on energy and short on patience and some days we watch entirely too much Blippi.
And that’s okay! It really is the small moments that add up and make a big impact. Here are five simple ways to foster your toddler’s speech development everyday:
Think back to when we all wearing masks. Remember how hard it was to understand people when you couldn’t see their faces? Our faces and mouths communicate so much information! Getting face-to-face allows your little one to tune into all of that important information, and allows you to see exactly what your toddler is interested in. That ways you can add the words that match and turn those moments into powerful word learning opportunites.
It makes sense we learn the words for the objects we interact with the most, right? That’s why many of a toddler’s first 50 words tend to be the same (Check out my First 50 Words Checklist here). They are the words your little one hears everyday. Daily routines are goldmines for learning vocabulary words. That’s because they give your child the opportunity to hear (and say) the words that are most relevant to them and their day.
Say what you’re doing out loud:
Language in = language out. Making it a habit to say what you’re doing out loud is a really simple way teach your child about language. Two super simple speech strategies are self talk, when you say what you are doing, and parallel talk, when you say what you’re child is doing. For example, you might say, “I’m cracking the egg,” or You’re helping me make breakfast.”
Aim to read at least one book everyday:
Research from Logan et at (2019) shows that reading just one book daily exposes a child to 296,660 words by the time they are five years old. When we think about school readiness, that’s a huge advantage.. Children who hear words often are going to be better prepared to see those words when they enter school and pick up reading skills more quickly. We all get busy, but think about the power of just one book a day!
Gestures help in a lot of ways. By making your words visual to your toddler, you help make them more salient and therefore easier to learn. Research even shows that toddlers generally produce a word within 3 months of producing a gestures (Goldin-Meadow, 2015). Gestures also help decrease frustration because they give your toddler a way to communicate with their hands what their mouth isn’t saying just yet. It’s okay if you don’t know any signs! Simply make your hands match your mouth to harness all of the power of gestures.
Not sure what to expect with speech development? Check out my Speech Milestones Checklist and if you’re looking for more ways to support your toddler’s speech development at home, check out my Big Little Talkers course. It really is about knowing how to maximize the small moments to make a big difference.
Goldin-Meadow, S. (2015). Gesture as a window onto communicative abilities: Implications for diagnosis and intervention. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 22, 50-60.
Logan et al. When Children Are Not Read to at Home: The Million Word Gap. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics (2019).