Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
Birth to 2 Years
- Encourage your baby to make vowel-like and consonant-vowel sounds such as "ma," "da," and "ba."
- Reinforce attempts by maintaining eye contact, responding with speech, and imitating vocalizations using different patterns and emphasis. For example, raise the pitch of your voice to indicate a question.
- Imitate your baby's laughter and facial expressions.
- Teach your baby to imitate your actions, including clapping you hands, throwing kisses, and playing finger games such as pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and the itsy-bitsy-spider.
- Talk as you bathe, feed, and dress your baby. Talk about what you are doing, where you are going, what you will do when you arrive, and who and what you will see.
- Identify colors.
- Count items.
- Use gestures such as waving goodbye to help convey meaning.
- Introduce animal sounds to associate a sound with a specific meaning: "The doggie says woof-woof."
- Acknowledge the attempt to communicate.
- Expand on single words your baby uses: "Here is Mama. Mama loves you. Where is baby? Here is baby."
- Read to your child. Sometimes "reading" is simply describing the pictures in a book without following the written words. Choose books that are sturdy and have large colorful pictures that are not too detailed. Ask your child, "What's this?" and encourage naming and pointing to familiar objects in the book.
2 to 4 Years
- Use good speech that is clear and simple for your child to model.
- Repeat what your child says indicating that you understand. Build and expand on what was said. "Want juice? I have juice. I have apple juice. Do you want apple juice?"
- Use baby talk only if needed to convey the message and when accompanied by the adult word. "It is time for din-din. We will have dinner now."
- Make a scrapbook of favorite or familiar things by cutting out pictures. Group them into categories, such as things to ride on, things to eat, things for dessert, fruits, things to play with. Create silly pictures by mixing and matching pictures. Glue a picture of a dog behind the wheel of a car. Talk about what is wrong with the picture and ways to "fix" it. Count items pictured in the book.
- Help your child understand and ask questions. Play the yes-no game. Ask questions such as "Are you a boy?" "Are you Marty?" "Can a pig fly?" Encourage your child to make up questions and try to fool you.
- Ask questions that require a choice. "Do you want an apple or an orange?" "Do you want to wear your red or blue shirt?"
- Expand vocabulary. Name body parts, and identify what you do with them. "This is my nose. I can smell flowers, brownies, popcorn, and soap."
- Sing simple songs and recite nursery rhymes to show the rhythm and pattern of speech.
- Place familiar objects in a container. Have your child remove the object and tell you what it is called and how to use it. "This is my ball. I bounce it. I play with it."
- Use photographs of familiar people and places, and retell what happened or make up a new story.