How to encourage your toddler’s speech

August 12, 2018

About a month or so ago, I received a note home from Paisley’s preschool saying that she is behind in her speech and that it has been passed on to our health visiting team. This annoyed me hugely because she isn’t behind on her speech at all, she just doesn’t like to talk there because she’s shy.
Another thing is, by saying she is behind, they are comparing her to others. As parents, we compare our children to others enough as it is. The mum guilt is real on that one so do we really need others telling you something (that actually isn’t true) and causing unnecessary stress? Every child is different and will develop at different stages. And the time it takes for a child to learn to walk and talk and do lots of things bares no relevance to how well they can walk and talk and do lots of things.

My wild and free girl

With all that said, I know that sometimes there are things about our children that we would worry about and obviously we want to encourage them and help them to learn new things as best we can, so I’ve set about creating a list of tips that will help you encourage your child’s speech. Hopefully, these will be of use to you and maybe you can share some of your own suggestions in the comments.
*Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you purchase through them, I could earn a small amount of commision at no extra cost to yourself*

1. Don’t use baby language.

If your child develops their own word for something, we initially think it’s really cute. Even at 5 years old there are words that Dexter mispronounces – for example when he talks about school, he calls the assembly a ‘reesemally‘. But try not to go along with it. By repeating your toddler’s speech and their mistakes you are reinforcing that way of saying the word. Kids don’t need baby words for things. They don’t need things dumbing down. They often understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

2. Read books with repeated phrases

Just reading anything will always help your child’s speech.  just listening to the way you say things helps them to get their pronunciation clearer. But having books with repetitive phrases will encourage them more because they know the line that is coming next and are excited to join in with it. Books such as Dear Zoo, The Gruffalo, Brown Bear, and We’re going on a bear hunt. We especially like books by Julia Donaldson. Make it part of the excitement of story time by encouraging them to join in with you.

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3. Make your own flashcards

I did this with Dexter and they worked so well. Many sets of flashcards can be very hit and miss in terms of the picture you get in them. I found the best way was to make their own for words that you use and things that they will recognise. We included family members in ours as well as places and things and animals but tried to keep it in line with what he saw in real life. So rather than a picture of just any swing, we took a picture of the swing near our house that we took him to. Instead of a picture of any old cat, we took a picture of our own cat. His own drink cup, his own toys, the busses in our city rather than a generic bus etc. I found these worked really well as they were more personal to us and also we were able to add to the collection at any time.
All you need is a printer to print out your pictures and a laminator to stop them from getting screwed up.

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3. Engage with them when out and about.

When heading out, talk to your children and describe where you are going, what you are doing and what you can see. Ask them questions about their surroundings and encourage them to point things out. What colour are the trees? How many cars can you see? What shapes are the clouds making? Say thank you and goodbye to the bus driver or the post office clerk. Seeing how you communicate with others and inviting your children into conversations will give you more opportunities to improve your toddler’s speech.

4. Use body language and gesturing

Baby signing is a great way to start communicating with your baby and speaking the words at the same time as signing them means as they get older they will have a basic vocabulary of words they understand and will then start to say. But even if you don’t use baby signing from the start, simple things like opening your hands to indicate a book, pointing to things, using actions to mime things like brushing your hair as you speak are all clear and easy to understand gestures that will help your child understand language and words

By pulling funny faces you are working mouth muscles which will improve your toddler's speech
Funny faces

5. Get them to watch your mouth

Over annunciating when you talk means your mouth will make bigger shapes and as a result, you might find that as your child is watching you speak, their mouth will start to mimic yours too. Turn facial exercises into a funny game… Who can make the biggest smile, or screw their face up into the most wrinkles? Who can poke their tongue out the furthest or make the kissiest pout? These exercises will help your children’s mouth muscles and speech will come much easier.

So those are my top tips for improving your toddler’s speech. What would you add? Are you struggling to get your child to talk at the moment? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, Especially if you have any questions I can help with. 

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  • Reply Su (Ethan And Evelyn) August 19, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Really great tips. I know from nursery how each child is so different and some have more of a delayed speech than others.

    • Reply Leslie Rickerby September 21, 2018 at 10:18 am

      Oh, every child develops at a different pace, I quite agree

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