Parents and caregivers can make a big difference in a child’s speech and language development. Below are three tips to help increase your child’s speech and language skills at home. To implement these tips, designate two 10-minute periods throughout the day to focus on speech and language (set a timer and check it off on a calendar to hold yourself accountable!). Remember, communication is the exchange of information. For example, this could be through gestures, signs, or verbal messages! 

Follow Your Child’s Lead

Many therapists implement play-based therapy, and there is good reason for it! Your child’s communication potential is at its highest when there is motivation by the toys and activities they prefer. 

  • Pay attention to what your child is doing and join in on the play. Grab a similar item (i.e. a different dinosaur or a block) and model the language that surrounds this play. 
  • Choose 1-2 functional words and model those words throughout the activity
    • Blocks: Up, More
    • Cars: Stop, Go
    • Lights: On, Off
    • Music: More, Help

Entice Your Child to Communicate

As a parent or caregiver, it is very easy to predict your child’s wants and needs or what they will do next. Manipulate the environment and provide wait time (3-5 seconds!). Therefore, your child has to use spontaneous communication to get the desired item, action, or object. 

  • Provide choices! “Do you want the red car or the green car?”
  • Place wanted items out of reach. As a result, your child will have to communicate what he wants. 
  • Give preferred food items one at a time and encourage your child to sign or verbally ask for more! 
  • Provide your child with a snack or a toy container that is hard to open. What will they do? 

Play with Your Child (without toys!) 

Toys are great for many reasons, but sometimes you can elicit the most meaningful language when your child is interacting with you

  • Go for a ride in a laundry basket! Place an empty laundry basket in the middle of the room. What does your child do? Above all, narrate using functional words they could try like: in, out, more, stop, and go!
  • Sing songs that have action: Trot Trot to Boston, Pat-A-Cake, Wheels on the Bus
  • Tickle your child. Provide wait time and encourage them to ask for more. 
  • Play Hide and Seek and when they find you, do something they’ll want you to do again! 
  • Play Peek-A-Boo under a blanket. Pause after saying Peek-A to see if they insert ,”Boo!” 

Additional Support: Speech and Language Development

If you are concerned about your child’s development and need additional support, there are a few things you can do. 

1). Talk to your pediatrician! Your pediatrician is a great resource and will help point you in the right direction. The “Wait and See” approach is outdated– trust your gut! 

2). Seek out speech therapy services. An evaluation will determine if speech and language therapy is warranted. Based on your child’s age, there are a few options available: 

  • Early Intervention (EI) is a government funded program for infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years old) who have developmental delays or are at risk of a developmental delay.
  • Private Speech Therapy is available within most cities and suburbs. Therapy is provided within a clinic setting, at the child’s home, or at the child’s school. Private speech therapy is offered to children of all ages and is tailored to a child’s specific needs and goals. Certainly, please feel free to contact Brooke today at (774)-218-0354. She offers free 30-minute consultations to determine if services are appropriate. Visit Olearyspeechtherapy.com to get started or email Brooke at Olearyspeechtherapy@gmail.com.

About The Author

Brooke O’Leary is an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist. She owns her own private practice, O’Leary Speech Therapy, and provides in-home and virtual speech and language therapy in the Greater Boston Area. Brooke has a dual Bachelors and Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a certificate in Early Intervention from Northeastern University. She specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of a variety of communication disorders. Brooke works closely with individuals and their families to facilitate effective communication skill development and implementation.