Online Speech Therapy

Increase your Toddler’s Vocabulary In Five Easy Steps

Babies are born with almost no communication skills, except the ability to cry. But by two years of age, toddlers can generally connect words and string them into simple sentences. Here are five easy ways to reinforce communication and increase vocabulary.

Talk, talk, talk– In our busy world, it is often easy to turn on the TV and use it as background noise. As inconvenient as it may be, it is preferable for your voice to play that role. With young children, you can talk about the clothes they are wearing, the foods they are eating, or what they are doing. Be specific and avoid ’empty’ words like here or there. This type of chit chat is a natural way of engaging toddlers in what is transpiring in their environment. 

Read, read, read-Carve out a time every day to read to your toddler. My preference has always been to make reading part of their bedtime routine, but any time you can grab private time will work. Reading helps children develop the rhythm and structure of language as they learn new words.  Keep in mind that reading is not just a one-way process. It is a wonderful opportunity for you to ask questions and start a conversation that can continue after you have finished the book. Repetitive books like Brown Bear and the Eric Carle series are great for learning colors, shapes, days of the week and action words.

Play, play, play-Playing with your child does not have to be elaborate and it need not involve pricey games. It can be as simple as singing “This little piggy went to market” when you putting on shoes. Or make up songs as you go. As you fill the bathtub with toys, name body parts as you wash. Play blocks or Lego together and as your toddler selects the blue ones, verbalize what you are seeing, “I see you like red blocks. Can you find a blue one?” Play dress up, pretend to make dinner together or feed the animals in the zoo. There are also actual games you can purchase that teach taking turns like Trouble  Spot It, Headbanz and Perpetual Commotion which are also a great way to teach and reinforce pronouns.

Name, name, name– Name all the objects in your child’s environment in a meaningful way. Avoid using the words it or that and use specific vocabulary in conversation. As you take your toddler for a walk in the stroller, mention everything by name. Imitate the sound of an airplane flying overhead, the meow of the cat passing by or the motorcycle in the street. Use very expressive tone with lots of hand gestures and facial expressions. If you are more comfortable using picture flash cards, try touch and feel cards.  

Applaud, applaud, applaud– Positive reinforcement encourages speech, language acquisition and articulation. So clap, snap, hug or reward any babbling, chatting or appropriate use of words.

What books, games or activities that you have tried? Would love to hear your suggestions.

Online Speech Therapy

The Babble Battle: Why Do Babies Say Dada First

We carry them for nine months, birth them and often are the primary caregiver.

Then why do babies generally say dada before mama?

Fashion designer Rachel Zoe shared her frustration with PEOPLE “They always say, ‘Dada,’ first and I don’t know what that is,” Zoe said after her son finally said mama at 12 months

Is dada easier to say?

Russian linguist Roman Jakobson claims “ the sound of “m” (for “mama”) is easier for babies to make because they tend to do so when their mouths are fastened to a bottle or breast.” But Breyne Moskowitz, PhD, states that nasal sounds such as “m” are actually more difficult and babies are more likely to utter the sound “dada” because it doesn’t require forcing air through the nose.

As babies babble, we reinforce the sounds that sound familiar by clapping, cheering and smothering them with kisses.

Are dads better reinforcers?

My personal experience with my own four children has been that mama came first; but my professional experience has been quite the opposite. Either way, babbling is a crucial milestone; reinforcing babbling, whether it is mama, dada or baba, is an important part of promoting communication and normal speech development. This type of vocal play is crucial practice for learning how to speak and form words.  Lack of babbling is an important sign to reach out to a speech therapist for a consultation.

Now that my fourth child is six months old and starting to babble, I am excitedly anticipating which will be his first word. Will he follow in the path of his brothers or will he set a new brave a new frontier and give his dad the joy of being first?

Though I may be personally guilty of clapping more for mama…

Taking a poll: Did your baby say dada or mama first?

Online Speech Therapy

When Toys Take Center Stage

7 Ways to Actively Promote Language Development in Children

We live in a fast-paced world where new products are outdated once they hit the shelves. But a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that “electronic toys and e-books can make parents less likely to have the most meaningful kinds of verbal exchanges with their children.” Recently, I worked with a two year old who did not know how to turn the pages of a book. All he wanted to do is swipe. While swiping is an important skill to master in today’s iGadget generation, research indicates that reading to your child, turning pages, pointing to pictures and asking questions plays a crucial role in cognitive and language development.

As a licensed speech therapist, my goal is to promote communication. Here are some other tried and true activities which promote language development in babies:

  1. Talk, chat and keep the monologue running. Narrate everything you are doing. It may feel funny at first but eventually it will seem natural and prove beneficial.
  2. Sing a song! Some people prefer to make up silly songs instead of narrating. It’s a personal choice!
  3. Incorporate gestures and facial expressions in your communication to increase engagement.
  4. Be repetitive! Repetition reinforces language development.
  5. Avoid empty words like here and there. Give specific directions, “Bring the ball to the basket instead of bring the ball here.” Never miss the opportunity to introduce new vocabulary.
  6. Maintain eye contact, laugh and be animated. By varying your facial expressions, your child learns proper responses.
  7. Take center stage! A toy is no substitute for a real live conversation. According to the study, a toy should be 10 percent toy and 90 percent child. With many electronic toys, the toy takes over 90 percent and the child just fills in the blanks.

And filling in the blanks is no substitute for real life conversations.

What Gr8 language – based activities have you found helpful?