Children Develop Speech Skills at Different Rates
Children acquire speech skills at different rates. In general, I tell parents that strangers should be able to understand at least 50% of what your toddler says at age 2 and 75% at age 3. By age 4 most of what a typical child says should be understood by others.
Some sounds such as “p, b, d, t, n, m” are developmentally easier for most children and are, therefore, produced at a much younger age than more difficult sounds. Later sounds such as “r” and “l” are sometimes not even acquired until after the age of 5.
I am writing this blog post to give simple tips to naturally improve your child’s speech skills without placing pressure on your child. Of course, if you are concerned about your child’s speech development, discuss your concerns with his or her pediatrician.
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my link.)
1. Repeat Errors Correctly
Lately, I have really found myself doing this with my 2 (almost 3) year old, so it made the first spot on this list. One of the most natural ways to improve your child’s speech production is to correct his errors without pointing it out in a negative way.
For example, my son doesn’t always produce consonant blends such as sp, st, sk, etc. (It is totally developmentally appropriate for him not to say these yet!) If he says, “I see a pider, Momma.” I will say back something like, “Wow! You see a ssssspider.” I put emphasis on the sound he missed (the “s” in spider) but do not point out that he said anything wrong. I am simply modeling the correct production for him in a natural way that doesn’t communicate anything negative about his speech.
2. Draw Attention to Your Face
This strategy is especially good for younger kiddos! When learning how to produce a particular sound, it is often helpful for a child to see how the sound is made by someone else. This is why getting them to look at your face when speaking is beneficial.
Rather than telling your child to look at your face, I suggest using items to naturally draw attention toward you. For example, if your child is incorrectly producing the “sh” in sheep, you could hold a toy sheep up by your face during play with a farm set. Then, once your child is looking say, “Sheep.” Again, you may stress the sound you are wanting to encourage your child to produce.
3. Use Letters
Incorporating the alphabet is an easy way to encourage your child to attempt a sound numerous times. Pick a letter of the alphabet to talk about and find items that start with that letter. Then, you will model the sound and your child will naturally practice the sound without even realizing it.
You can incorporate other fun activities such as tracing the letter, sorting items that start with that letter from items that don’t, or coloring pictured items that start with that sound. Foam bathroom letters like these are also a fun idea!
If you have read much of my blog at all, you know that I am a big fan of reading daily with your children! Books can also be good for encouraging speech sound development.
You may start by picking a book that has sounds your child doesn’t use well yet. Here are some examples:
- Llama, Llama Mad At Momma for “L”
- Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes for “SH”
- Hop On Pop for “P”
- Good Night, Gorilla for “G”
- Hooray For Fish for “F”
Simply reading these books with your child will provide multiple models for them. You can also have your child practice certain words on some of the pages.
If you are looking for creative ways to incorporate reading into every day with your child, check out this post.
5. Make Sounds Fun
This is where you can get really creative! If you are trying to help your child with a certain sound, you can try to think of a way to “teach” it and practice it that is fun by using animals or other silly sounds during play. Here are some examples:
- “Silly Snake Sound”: Practice saying, “SSSSSSS”, while playing with toy snakes or making snakes with play-doh.
- “Pirate Sound”: Pretend you are pirates, while saying “Arrrrgh” to practice an “r” sound.
- “Bee Sound”: Practice buzzing like a bee to practice a “z” sound.
Remember, these are natural and fun ways to incorporate speech sound development into everyday play with your child. Try to avoid pointing out errors often or pressuring your child to “perform.” You are just providing consistent input of the correct production of sounds in hopes that your child will begin using new sounds!
Do you have any other ideas? I would love to hear them!