I’m new to blogging, in fact this is my first day dipping into this form of communication. I am a mom with grown children but I work with little ones every day as a Speech-Language Therapist. In fact, I have worked in this field for over 30 years! (Maybe you can guess why my profile picture is of trees.)
With the current shortage of speech therapists, I realize parents and caregivers might be the only speech/language “teachers” the children in their care ever encounter, but what more motivated teachers could they have? Many communication problems I encounter in my work, could have been prevented by a language-rich environment in the home. Of course not all speech and language delays can be prevented; a child may have developmental delays, hearing impairments or other medical issues that slow speech development, but even for those precious little ones, a language-rich environment gives children a boost toward better communication.
I’d like to suggest a few activities to encourage language development in your home. They are listed below by ages. (If you’d like to see more activities take a look at my comments at the end of this post.)
For babies 0-6 months of age: Environmental Sounds
Your baby’s ability to listen is one of her most important skills to help her learn to talk. She needs to be able to tell the difference between the various sounds in her environment. In order to learn to discriminate between sounds, she needs to be where the sounds are and have many listening experiences, hearing common household sounds and learning their source. Move Baby around the house to different rooms and outside; let her hear different people talk. She will enjoy the variety as she learns to identify various sounds and distinguish them from each other.
6-12 months Baby’s Own Book
Making a very special book for your baby requires just a little creativity. Take pictures of people, pets, and objects (such as crib, high chair, and toys) that are important to her. Glue them on lightweight cardboard or index cards and cover them with clear Contact™ paper. Punch two holes in each picture and bind them together into a “book,” using securely fastened yarn or large metal rings. Sit and enjoy the book with Baby, naming and pointing to the pictures together.
12-18 months Playhouse
Use your imagination to make a marvelous toy for your child. Obtain a large carton from a furniture or appliance store. Cut a hole for a window and a hole for a door then let your child explore this new “playhouse.” It will provide the opportunity to talk about concepts such as “in” and “out,” “open” and “close,” “big” and “little.”
18-24 months Texture Box
Young children like surprises. Add an element of surprise in this activity that teaches about textures. Place two or three objects, each with a different texture, in a bag or box. Talk about the textures and how they feel as Toddler removes the objects from the container and handles them. Suggested objects and their textures are sandpaper (rough), a brush (prickly), a saucer (smooth), a cotton ball (soft), and a sponge (squishy). When Toddler has become familiar with the objects, name one for him to remove without seeing it. If he chooses the requested object, show a lot of excitement over his success.
2-3 years Follow Your Steps
This simple activity helps develop your child’s balance and coordination. Trace around your foot or shoe on paper and cut out several of these “footprints.” Tape them to the floor, making sure they are close enough together so that your child can step from one to the next. Have your child follow as you walk around the room, stepping on the footprints. Take turns, allowing your child to be the leader while you are the follower. Talk about what you are doing, using words such as “in front of” and “behind,” “go” and “stop,” and “on” and “off” the footprints.
If you’d like to see more activities, take a look at my book, Talking Time (Language Enrichment Activities: Birth to Three). https://www.createspace.com/3624807 An earlier version of this book was used by speech therapists across the country. I have updated the book and created a less costly edition, hoping to get it into the hands of parents & caregivers – the most important teachers of all!