7 Tips to Help your Baby and Toddler Flourish in their Speech

My 2 year old daughter has become very chatty  – she loves to talk whilst she is playing, whilst she is out and about, at the dinner table and especially when it’s time to say goodnight, she suddenly starts gibbering away something very quickly to make me stay in her room! She is a lot like her dad, I can tell we are going to have a very noisy household when they are older!

Recently she has started to talk back a lot to me, and I hear my own voice in her tone. “Not like that mummy” “No, not this way, that way!” and the forever endless, “DON’T sit down, play” are just some of the phases I have been hearing around the house recently. Now I am moving into the stage of teaching her how to talk nicely to people… we will see how that goes!

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Although my husband is a speech therapist, I am no specialist, everything I have learnt is from trial and error. But to get her to this stage of talking, I believe there were a few things I did that helped her along the way.
I believe every child is different and uniquely created by God, with their own gifts and talents, and every child develops at their own pace. But I also believe there are ways you can encourage your child to speak more and boost their speaking skills in any language. Your child should flourish in their speaking skills and we are the one’s who can enable them to FLOURISH! 

If you are worried about your child’s speaking level or feel they are not talking as much as they ‘should’, don’t fret! In my opinion there is no ‘should’ stage. Your child will get there at their own pace. But whilst you are waiting, there are some things you can do to help them!

And whilst we are at it, this is not just for toddlers, start talking to your baby from the moment they are out of your womb! That is where the learning adventure towards speech begins!

Read, read, read

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I am a big fan of reading so I can’t stress enough how important reading is. And it’s never to early to start. I started reading books to Kara when she was 1 week old and I saw he fall in love with books, now not only does she love listening to stories, but she likes to pick up books and retell the story in her own way herself. Books will teach your kids so many things and spending time together reading books everyday will make whole new worlds come alive to them! Not only does it teach them new vocabulary but it opens up their imagination and prompts them to question things when they are older. Starting when they are young let’s them build listening skills as well as builds a love for books and a habit for reading. When they were babies I tried to read them books in both English and Japanese or get daddy to read to them so they can build knowledge in both areas.

Describe everything

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Where ever you go, talk about where you are going and what you are doing. When you are changing your babies nappy, describe what you are doing. “Mummies just changing your nappy now, let’s wipe your bottom and put a new nappy on.”
When I went outside I would describe, where we, were going and what we could see. “Oh there are some nice pink flowers, and some cars, I can see a blue car.” I did this from when Kara was a baby, at first it felt a bit awkward especially outside when I had a lot of people looking at me, probably thinking why is this strange foreigner talking in English to her stroller?! It also felt awkward to talk to my baby when I had no response back, but keep at it and it will feel less and less awkward!

Ask Questions

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Even if they are still babies and you cannot get a response back, it’s still important to ask questions. Use intonation at the end of the sentence so they know it is a question.
Ask questions helps them to understand you are not just talking at them, but talking with them. It can also feel awkward asking your baby questions, when you blatantly know you are not going to get an answer but you might be surprised that one day they may answer you back!
When your child is a toddler, ask them lots of questions about what you so and what you are doing, try to ask open ended questions, so they don’t just answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Whatever you are doing interact with the by asking questions, even when you are watching TV ask them questions about what they are watching and what is happening on the show.

This leads me to my next point….

The Pause”

After you have asked the question, pause so they have time to respond. Yes, even if they are still a baby, don’t just talk at them but give them chance to reply or understand this is a conversation. As babies they may gurgle or coo something, you can interpret this however you like for them. “Oh you think it’s nice?” “Oh you want to play too?”. This is difficult to do at the beginning, I think I just kept talking AT Kara when she was born not with her. But “the pause” is extra important because babies and toddlers want to communicate with us.
I still need to pause with Kara now, since recently she likes to think about her answer, or ‘pretend’ she is thinking!

Stop the ‘baby talk’

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We think that young kids and babies need us to talk simply to them and dumb it down. but actually children understand a lot more than we think from a very young age. When I was a teacher and with my own kids, I always made it a habit to talk to them how I would talk to adults. I would use word’s that I use in my adult conversations purposefully in my conversations, to open them up to more vocabulary and make their brains work harder to understand what I am trying to say. Of course we don’t need to be over the top, use simple and real language, but there is no need to turn in a baby talking machine!

Use Gestures and Sign

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At Kara’s nursery school, they use a lot of baby sign language. Including the sign language for the alphabet and colours. I haven’t put in the effort to learn this but Kara comes back home and shows me the signs for these when I sing the alphabet song or talk about colours with her. Research shows that children greatly benefit from non-verbal communication and it also helps babies to communicate with you more. You can start this from when they are young babies. When Kara was a baby I repeatedly gestured the signs for ‘more’ ‘no’ and ‘milk’ every time I said them. Eventually, even before she could talk she could communicate back to me that she wanted more. And now my son, laugh’s hilariously when I sign ‘milk’ to him! There are lots of websites that talk about baby sign and pages where you can look up the actions and try at home. Or you can simply make up your own actions, the point is communicating verbally and non-verbally at the same time!

Imaginative Play

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The last thing I love to do with Kara is get into her world and create stories with her animals and soft toy’s. Showing her how to make a world with the toys around her and give them a voice, telling them what to do and describing what’s going on, helps her to continue this play into her own free play time. When I see her playing by herself I see her using words I have used, but also using vocab that she has heard else where, as well as creating her own vocab. Rather than playing silently with toys, teaching her to use her imagination, means she can talk with herself and create imaginative worlds around her.

How about you? What methods have you used to encourage your child to speak more and boost their speaking skills? 

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