This is one of the things I get asked about the most in the messages I receive from parents. Mums and Dads concerned that their little one isn’t speaking yet and their peers have started to say words, or they can say words but their older sibling was stringing sentences together at this age, or they have a delay of some sort and so their language is a little slower to develop. There are a lot of you out there with similar worries so this blog post is for you.
Like everything with child development there is a LARGE window of when speech will start and at what speed it’ll develop. More often than not, any concerns are just your child doing things at their own pace, as with everything little people will learn to do. However if you are worried AT ALL please speak to your GP, Health Visitor, Teacher or nursery assistant. They can help talk you through ways to refer to a Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) if you feel support is required. I am not a SALT, but I did train in how to support children with Speech and Language difficulties when I was a TA, hence the reason that ALL my games are designed to help you practice S&L at home with your wee people in a really easy five minute way!
Now if you are keen to support your child at home with speech and language, playing five minutes games is always a good thing to do, even if you are waiting for a SALT referral or have one. But which games are the best? I’m going to share some of the easiest ones below that you can quickly try at home.
First of all my 5 top tips for supporting speech and language are as follows (you can do these from newborn!):
- Chatter away to your little one. Explain what you are doing as you unload the dishwasher/make the bed/get them dressed. Describe what you see when you walk with them out and about. Chat chat chat. It’s amazing how something so simple is really the most effective.
- Read books together. If they don’t like listening to a story flick through the pages and talk about the pictures. Get books with flaps and sensory pages (Usbourne That’s Not My…books are excellent for this)
- Sing nursery rhymes – spend five minutes a day singing 10 nursery rhymes with your little person. Such an easy way to encourage speech!
- Get eye contact when you speak to them. Play down at their level. Lie on your tummy and play cars or dolls or doctors and nurses – whatever they love most. Give them a chance to be able to see your lips move as they speak. Another way to get eye contact is to lie down on your back and sit them on your tummy. Then sing to them or play ‘peek-a-boo’ or just say “where’s your….nose/eyes/hair/chin. Where’s Mummy/Daddy’s eyes/nose hair?” etc etc.
- Try not to correct them. If they say something incorrectly just repeat it in the correct way, modelling for them how it should sound, without battering their precious confidence. For example, they might say “Mummy I runneded to the swide” and you would reply, “yes, I saw you run to the slide, you’re so fast!”
Right so yeah yeah yeah you’re thinking we do all this stuff, gimme some fun games. OK here are some I have done recently and links to some other blog posts I’ve written with more ideas.
The Memory Game
I play this game a lot with Ewan. He struggles to say the F sound. He often replaces it with an ‘s’ or ‘b’ sounds so ‘Fox’ becomes ‘box’. This is a really common thing with children. They sometimes struggle with a particular sound when they can otherwise talk brilliantly. It is just the way their brain and mouth muscles are connecting. So here’s a fun way to practice those tricky to say sounds’…
- Get five items that either start with the sound you want to practice or have that sound in them. For us it’s the F so I got a fork, F, fire engine, firefighter and draw a picture of a flame/fire.
- Pop them on a tray of some sort and get out a cloth that covers them.
- Apply the Golden Rule!!!
- After you’ve talked about all the items on the tray, get your little one to cover their eyes then you take away one item and they have to guess which one is missing.
- You can take it in turns to steal one item and then gradually steal more and more.
There is a video of me explaining about this game here.
This is a little game I play with Florence who is coming up for 3. But Ewan enjoys doing this too.
- Get some stickers you have lying around or from a sticker book
- Get a piece of paper and some scissors
- Cut the stickers in half and stick on half of each sticker to the paper
- Remove the backing/outer bit of your sticker page so little hands can easily remove the stickers
- Let them peel off and match the stickers to the halves on the paper and talk about all the things they can see.
What’s under the cup?
Get five plastic cups out and pop one little toy under each cup. Leave it somewhere they can find it. When they do, sit down with them and say ‘what’s under the blue cup?’ and see if they can find blue and tell you who’s hiding. The mix them all up and start again. Let them hide them for you.
I have a lot more games on the following blogs posts…
Five things to do with 1-2 year olds (suitable for 2 plus as well. Ewan enjoyed doing this along with Flo!)
Games for Flo (again I did them with her from 2 but Ewan often joined in too).
Rainy Day Games (not just for rainy days but days where you want to do some chatting 🙂
I hope these help. As bloody annoying as it is ‘Bing’ on CBeebies is a really good demonstration of how we as adults should model language for little children. Bing (the freakishly giant toddler bunny) frequently gets his tenses confused or mispronounces sounds in works. Flop (the all knowing, ever patient bean bag) never corrects him. He just calmly repeats, agrees, models it back correctly and often extends the sentence. I know that little bunny will drive you up the wall but next time you watch see if you can spot Flop gently encouraging Bing into improving his speech and language without ever saying a word about it.
So there you have it, my one stop shop for speech and language tips, advice and games where hopefully I can direct any of you that have questions about this. Feel free to share away with anyone you think this might be helpful to. I’ve had a few SALT’s tell me this is good advice. But if you are one and spot something that isn’t correct please drop me a line and let me know. My training was a few years ago now and things always advance so I am more than happy to stand corrected. 🙂