Developing clear speech in toddlers isn’t just about building a good vocabulary, but also addressing factors affecting it and nurturing active listening & socio-emotional skills. In this post we’ve covered tips on how to develop strong language skills in pre-schoolers, from early childhood.
Like fine motor skills and other developmental milestones, the age at which children learn to talk may differ, starting from preliminary babbles (‘dada’ and ‘mama’) in the first few months. Child counselors believe most toddlers can say up to 20 difficult words (for their age) by the time they turn 18 months old. But what if your pre-schooler isn’t able to put two words together; what’s wrong? Here’s how we can help them overcome childhood language problems, and develop eloquent speech.
Early Development Of Speech In Pre-schoolers
- Talking In Parentese (or Motherese)
Experts believe that talking with children in Motherese makes tots incites a response in the form of coos and babbles.
Many confuse Parentese with baby talk but both are different dialects. Motherese involves gestures, exaggeration, and repetition (but the sound & pronunciation remain unchanged). Exaggerated sounds with hand movements help build comprehension and early language skills. E.g., “Look at the dog.” may be spoken as “Look, it’s a doggy!” to make it seem interesting, unlike baby talk (“Look, a dowwiee!) where the sound of ‘gy’ is replaced with ‘wiee’ to match the baby’s tone.
Speech experts recommend:
- Starting with monosyllable words (‘ma’ or ‘pa’).
- Adding more words to our baby’s words (E.g., when the tot says ‘Mama’ we can reply ‘Yes, mama is here’.
- Playing animal sounds and associating it with words (The cow says “moo-moo”)
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2. Trying Different Learning Methods
Toddler development accelerates by two times when parents follow different learning styles (storytelling, music, etc.).
- Read aloud storybooks. Let your tots turn the pages of the picture book. While they do so, we can point at the photos and say the names (Look, that’s an apple!).
- Make declarative statements (The sky is blue.) or point at a random object and ask questions (What’s that?).
- Creating dance moves for specific words in rhymes and songs help kids remember them.
3. Describing Routine Life
Little ones may not understand everything we’re saying, but research shows talking about household chores as we do them (E.g., I’m going to cook in the kitchen.) helps kids connect our words with actions and objects. The more a child hears big words (rich, descriptive & quality language), the better the vocabulary they build later on.
4. Giving Appropriate Responses
An appropriate response doesn’t mean reacting to everything that our child says. Taking a pause while talking to the baby gives us a chance to observe, and them to respond to our questions (“Which toy should we play with?”). Pausing at appropriate places in between conversations lets them know it’s there turn to speak. It helps them in understanding the intricacies of communication
5. Whispering Words
One of the commonest errors of early speech development occurs in initial voicing (E.g., saying pig instead of big or light instead of night. Although the lip movement is same for many letters (like c, d, t & p, b etc.), our vocal cords produce a different vibration for them.
Once our child is big enough to understand phonics, we should train them to whisper letters. Whispering doesn’t cause a buzzing sensation in the vocal cords but shows kids how to move their mouth and focus on the throat to speak letters. Training the kids to emphasise on the air flow (E.g., holding a tissue close to lips and speaking, pig, light, etc.) works. When they say the ‘t’ ‘p’ ‘r’ sounds correctly, their mouth lets out air and paper flips up. If spoken incorrectly, the paper stays put.
The aforementioned tricks are good to start with a very small child. Some kids need a little more help in addressing and understanding speech patterns. We just need to be patient with them and continue trying new and unique things to make the learning process more engaging and enjoyable for children.