Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out our full disclosure policy here
How often does your toddler get raging mad because you didn’t do what he wanted? And how often are you paralyzed with frustration that you did not understand him?
Today I want to share some tips on how to boost your toddler’s speech and language.
What is the difference between speech and language? Is there even a difference?
Playing With Words 365 writes:
While speech involves the physical motor ability to talk, language is a symbolic, rule governed system used to convey a message. In English, the symbols can be words, either spoken or written..Though speech and language are related, you do not have to have speech to have a language. How? The best example of this is the use of Sign Language.
Based on this, when we talk about boosting a toddler’s speech, we really mean boosting language skills. We don’t have to be a speech therapist and get all technical, but I think it helps to see all the components involved.
For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to both as speech.
You have spent so many hours investing in your child by talking to him and explaining everything.
You have seen her eyes light up and respond to you with coos and smiles, or cries and screams.
But when he said his first word? That was something else.
This is a little person, with a voice and it is just the beginning.
It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, hearing them say a word the first time or improving their speech as time goes on is always marvelous.
You get to be the one to shape this incredible human. I believe with all my heart that it is a gift from God.
I have always wanted to do a good job at it. maybe it’s my perfectionist tendencies (working on it), or maybe it’s just that I love my kids so much I want them the very best.
We are a bilingual family and because Hungarian, the language I speak to them, is their minority language in the US, I definitely had to do a lot of speech boosting.
I had to make sure do constantly do certain things in order to have them speak my language too and not just English.
And while most of you probably don’t deal with bilingualism, my experience can be applied to any situation in which you want to boost your toddler’s speech.
I bet you’re curious! Here are 9 ways to boost your toddler’s speech!
1. Read, read and read!
You probably have already heard this, but let me explain why it is so important.
Books teach vocabulary, expressions and all sorts of grammar rules without effort.
Your child will just soak up all the ways he has heard books “talk”, and will subconsciously (or sometimes consciously) use them.
I definitely noticed that my kids learned a ton of Hungarian through books. Stories brought up situations they wouldn’t have otherwise found themselves in and the writing exposed them to new words.
Exposure is the name of the game when it comes to boosting your toddler’s speech. Keep exposing her to rich words and expressions, and she will learn to express herself well.
An article in Science News says:
Babies start off as generalists. These little citizens of the world pick up any and all sounds and languages that happen to float by. But during the second half of their first year, babies get choosier and focus more brainpower on the language spoken most frequently around them.
So exposure (frequency) is of utmost importance, bilingual or not. Books will easily help you with that, plus they are great for spending time together!
2. Speak to your child!
Guessing you already knew this one too. After all, we all talk to our children, don’t we? However, how we talk is of crucial importance.
While using a high pitched voice is preferred with a baby, not so with older kids. Talking with baby words instead of the real names of things, your toddler will be slower in developing proper speech.
Toddlers learn by imitating. What you say, they will say.
And while most often you have to keep exposing them, some words don’t take long to learn at all. (I bet you’ve noticed this when you accidentally sad a four letter word)
So use an adult voice and grown-up words, for the most part. (Because who can resist repeating some of the cute things they say??)
3. Narrate activities!
Children learn by hearing the language, so the more opportunities I create, the better the environment for speech development.
Though I have already been subconsciously doing it, understanding narrating was a new thing for me when I had my second baby. I first heard about it from Janet Lansbury, who touts the benefits of “sportscasting”.
This pretty much means that you literally say what your child is doing, just like a sportscaster.
“You’re building a tall tower”.
“You got frustrated because it fell and you worked hard.”
“You are trying again!”
This may feel silly or unnecessary at first, but not only will this activity let your child know you are watching, it will also help him learn words and expression through actual daily situations.
This article talks about how important self-talk and parallel talk is, however you also need to strike a balance. She writes:
I recommend using these strategies on and off throughout your day with your child. Make sure to let your child explore his/her world “on his own” without narration sometimes and provide opportunities for your child to talk back to you (if he/she is speaking yet).
Give it a try and find out how to tailor sportscasting to you and your child.
4. Use Toys!
Research shows that basic toys are the best for toddlers’ development. Meaning: loud, noise making, speaking toys are NOT better (probably inferior) for your child’s speech, no matter how educational they claim to be.
Open-ended toys (toys that leave it up to the child to decide what to use them for) are the most beneficial, check out my list of recommended items here.
Besides having fun, toys can be used to bring about conversations and new words, thereby boosting our toddler’s speech.
There are several toys that aid in boosting your toddler’s speech, but they may not be the ones you see promoted the most.
It’s also important to note, that toys on their own will not boost your toddler’s speech. He needs you (or another caregiver) to actually facilitate the language.
Read my post HERE on the best toys for speech and language development.
This ties into speaking to your child, but a little bit differently.
Your child will also hear and watch you when you aren’t specifically talking to her. Think about when you’re on the phone, or in the store or on the playground.
You, naturally, make a lot of conversation and he is there for it. As you use different words, speak with expression in your voice and gestures, he will learn through that.
In order to speak, kids need to first understand. That is why for the good part of their first 2 years, they just look at you and process literally everything you say.
They are learning it, putting it together and making sense of it. Sure, it won’t happen overnight, but they soak it in inevitably and when they start speaking, you will realize how hard they worked all those months when you got seemingly no response.
My daughter was about 3 years old when I took her to Hungary the second time, and by then she was able to say a lot of words and understand what people were telling her.
Hearing her, I found out that she knew expressions I don’t even remember teaching her, but she picked it up from me as I made conversation and read to her.
6. Be patient!
I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to give up teaching my children my language. I felt like the exposure I was able to provide was so insignificant that they would never learn it.
I had to consciously decide to keep going, even when I saw no apparent result because kids brains work even without any apparent outward signs.
I waited about 3 years with my first child when she was first proving to me that she could actually speak her second language.
I knew long ago that she understood, because she always talked to me and responded to what I said, but always in English.
To me, this is the biggest proof that kids can learn actively, yet show no outward proof. Don’t let this discourage you.
Once you understand that this is natural, be patient. Keep doing your part diligently, and you will see results. (of course, there are definitely cases in which a child needs a specialist’s intervention)
7. Ask Questions!
What’s a better opportunity than asking your toddler to explain some of the things he is doing or thinking? Getting them to make conversation, without forcing it, will give you an opportunity to boost their speech.
Who doesn’t like talking about a topic or an object they are enthusiastic about?
So show interest when your child plays with their favorite toy and ask some questions about it every so often.
“Wow! Look at that car. What color is it?”
“Yes, it is red.”
In a subtle way, you can then model the correct grammar and word. The language lesson of the day has already happened. Easy, right?
As you see, your toddler’s speech development is mainly based on time spent with you! So relax, and do what your parenting instincts naturally tell you.
Young children need people to interact with and the variety of ways we achieve that is what helps boost a toddler’s speech the most.
How do you boost your toddler’s speech?
If you liked these tips, please share with your friends!