Last Updated on June 4, 2021.
Are you struggling to understand your toddler? Does your toddler get frustrated because you don’t understand what they are saying? Learn 11 easy ways to help your child speak clearly.
Language skills are one of the toddler milestones that every parent stresses over. Every kid is different, and language skills will develop when your child is ready. But if you’re struggling to understand your child, or your little one gets frustrated because he’s never understood, there are easy strategies you can use to improve their language skills and boost their confidence. Here’s how you can help your child speak clearly!
Ditch the Pacifier and Bottle
Pacifiers and bottles are a good thing. There are plenty of benefits when using them with newborns and babies. But once your child reaches a year old and begins to learn words, it’s time to ditch the pacifier and bottle. Children who use these items beyond one year old can develop articulation issues. They are also at a greater risk of developing middle-ear infections, which can lead to speech issues as well. Extended pacifier use can also impact jaw and teeth alignment, which can lead to difficulties in speech sound.
Limit Screen Time & Get Active
Screen time negatively impacts speech development. One Canadian study found that 30-minutes of screen time for kids under 2 lead to a 49% increase in delayed speech development.
On the flip side, getting kids active, especially outdoors, can greatly improve your child’s ability to learn and grow. According to Dr. John J. Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “First, it optimizes your mindset to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.”
So put the electronics away and get outside to explore with your little one. You will both benefit greatly!
Avoid Using Mispronunciations (even though it’s cute)
Mispronunciations are inevitable for kids just learning to speak. My youngest used to call tomatoes “tay-mos”. It was cute, and I even caught myself saying it incorrectly at times. But language is learned through practice. So we want to avoid practicing mistakes! Even though it can be cute and endearing, you should refrain from repeating your child’s mispronunciations.
Model Appropriate Enunciation
Not only should you avoid mispronunciations, but you should also take care to enunciate your words! Kids model our behavior, and if you speak clearly, your kids are more likely to do the same.
Practice Sound Games and Songs
There are many sound games and songs you can do with your kids to practice language skills! Try popular kids songs that feature colors, animal sounds, or nursery rhymes. Here’s a great list of sneaky speech therapy games to play from verywellfamily.com.
Read Books Together Every Day
There are many studies that show the amazing benefits of reading to kids (or with kids) every single day. Reading daily starting at birth (and possibly even BEFORE birth) can help kids grasp the concept of language, improve literacy, and promote early verbal communication. If you’re wondering what the best way is to help your child speak clearly, this is it. As an added bonus, it will strengthen your family bond!
Practice Problem Solving
Give your kids opportunities to use full sentences and verbally express a range of ideas by problem-solving together. Troubleshoot what you can make for dinner, interpret instructions to put together a new toy, or have your child describe which playground they like best so you can go there after work. These problem-solving strategies also help your child feel a sense of belonging and significance, which is an important part of positive parenting.
When you’re laughing together, you’re probably not paying attention to the fact that you’re actually practicing language skills. Have your kids make up their own jokes, or have them recite jokes after you (maybe changing the punchline). Knock-Knock jokes or “Why did the chicken cross the road” jokes can work especially well with little kids.
Use Flash Cards
Get a set of basic flashcards and spend 5 minutes (or less) everyday just flipping through them together. Practice the proper enunciation a couple of times.
Ask Multiple Choice Questions
It’s tempting to ask your child yes or no questions because it’s simple. Or because your brain is fried from a long day and can’t take the thought of translating toddler babble. But multiple-choice questions are a great way to get your child to practice common words and to express thoughts.
Don’t Pretend to Understand
I’m guilty of this. But it’s a bad idea to just nod your head and pretend to understand your toddler when their speech is mumbled. If you answer in the affirmative, you’re sending the message that their communication is effective. So when you don’t understand, a quick “I’m sorry! I didn’t understand. Can you help me?” will let them know that they need to communicate more clearly.
What You Should Do Next…
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Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.