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.
Speech and Language
Like everything with child development there is a LARGE window of when speech will typically 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 (My favourite ones are on this list)
- 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 played this game a lot with Ewan. He struggled to say the F sound. He often replaced it with an ‘s’ or ‘b’ sounds so ‘fox’ became ‘box’. This is a really common thing with children. They sometimes struggle with a particular sound when they can otherwise talk clearly. 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’...
There is a video of me explaining about this game here.
- 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.
This is a little game I play with both of mine when they were toddlers - I love how quick and easy it is to do, and find a use for those random extra pages of stickers.
- 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 Flo 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 words. 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 can 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 quick tips and games to encourage speech and language. My first book Give Me Five also has these tips in and every game in there which is excellent to support speech has a little speech bubble tab on it, so you can easily find the perfect games. Click HERE for that book, either in kindle downloadable form or in paperback (it’s on audio too if you want to listen to tips and games).
There is a lot more detailed advice out there if you are looking for it. A great place to start is my friend Lisa who is a children’s SALT and who’s Instagram page is a treasure chest of helpful information - she is @peachy_speech and Amy is brilliant too - she is @speak_life_slt