Wondering and waiting for your child’s first word is such an exciting time as a parent, but in my experience children’s speech is one of the biggest worries that parents have about their child’s development too. Even if your child is a competent speaker, it’s always great to know how you can expand on their language skills, and if your little one isn’t quite there yet, read on to find out how you can encourage your child’s speech skills to develop.
Reading is so important for a child’s speech development. It allows you both to sit and focus on pictures and words, and is best done in an environment that is free from other distractions so that your child’s attention isn’t competing between Mr Tumble on the TV and what you are reading! Books that have simple pictures and pictures of faces and people are brilliant for capturing the attention of very young children. Our very first board book here at Rosa & Bo is perfect for capturing the attention of the youngest of readers. Having simple words that accompany the pictures support your child’s level of understanding and in time, they may be able to finish off the sentences from a book they are familiar with as they have seen you model this when reading to them.
Whether you have been blessed with the singing voice of an angel or not (!), singing is something that you can be doing to bond with your little one before they are even born. Singing supports your child’s sense of rhythm, rhyme and intonation. Action songs are particularly effective at building children’s sense of understanding, and you may find that they begin to join in with the actions before they have developed the ability the join in with the words of the songs. If you need to brush up on your action song repertoire, check out this video from the BBC.
- Build up mouth muscles
We don’t often think about just how much skill is required to form words with our mouths and tongues, but there are lots of things that can be done to support children to learn skills that support speech sounds. For example; using straws to blow paper boats in a water tray, blowing bubbles either from a tube or bubble bath, pretending to make ‘fish’ sounds or horse hoof sounds are some play-based ways you can work on these skills. You can also check out my Instagram reel for a paint blowing activity which is also a fantastic way to work on building mouth muscles.
- Speech principles
By following these speech principles from when your child is a baby until… well, for as long as you possibly can, this will support all aspects of communication and language development. When you are speaking with your child, as much as possible try to incorporate the following:
- be at their level
- make eye contact
- use their name
- use simple language
This helps children to know that you are speaking to them, they can read your expression and watch the way your mouth is moving in order to form words.
- Add one word
Once your child has started using a few words, one of the best ways to continue to build their speech development is by adding one word. This can be done using the environment around you, for example, if your child points to the sky and says ‘’sky’’, you can extend that for them by adding one word, saying ‘’blue sky’’. To take this even further you can support your child by using simple resources which will help your child to deepen their understanding through feel and touch. Our Woodland Friends Nesting Babies would be the perfect resource for this by having different kinds of animals, colours and a range of sizes. When your child points out a feature of the Nesting Babies, for example, ‘’bunny’’ you can respond by adding in size ‘’small bunny’’, which extends their language development and brings in a mathematical concept too.
It is important to remember that speech is just one aspect of your child’s communication and language development, understanding skills and listening and attention skills are equally important, so try not to worry if your child isn’t speaking as much as their peers. However, if you are worried about your child’s speech development, I would encourage you to speak to a health professional who may be able to signpost you to further support. If you would like to find out more about typical stages of children’s speech development I CAN, the children’s communication charity, has an excellent guide to the typical stages of speech and language development in babies, children and young people
This blog has been written by our Resident Play Expert here at Rosa & Bo, Sarah Doman. Sarah is a Hypnobirth and Early Years Expert. She helps families from pregnancy to children of school age to give birth and parent with confidence.You can find her on social media @sarahldoman or check out her website here.