Reading and Storytelling
Reading books and telling stories encourage good language development. These activities also build a strong foundation for future reading, writing, and learning.
- Use books and stories appropriate for you child's age level and attention span.
- Make stories simple using just a few words.
- As your child can sit and attend for longer periods of time, expand your language to make the story more complex.
- Choose simple "board" books or books with pictures and a few simple words/sentences on each page.
- Label objects and talk about what is happening in the pictures.
- Ask your child simple questions about what they think will happen next.
- Take a trip to your local library and let your child select books for their age and interest.
- Establish a routine reading time such as after dinner or bed time.
- Choose a cozy, quiet place to read.
- Make your own books using photographs of family and friends or cut pictures from magazines.
- Glue pictures on construction paper and let your child create a caption or story for each picture.
- Be creative, use your imagination, and have fun.
What is Language? What is Speech?
Language and speech are two different components of communication. Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
- Word meaning (e.g. "star" can refer to a bright object in the sky at night or a celebrity)
- How to make new words (e.g. friend, friendly, unfriendly)
- How to put words together to form meaningful sentences (e.g. "John walked to the new store" rather than "John walk store new")
- What word combinations are best in what situations (e.g. "Would you mind moving your foot?" or "Get on my foot, please!")
Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:
Articulation: How speech sounds are produced (e.g.. children must learn to produce the /r/ sound in order to say "rabbit instead of "wabbit")
Voice: Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g. the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
Fluency: The rhythm of speech (e.g. hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).
A language disorder is characterized by difficulty understanding the words of others (receptive language), or formulating words to share thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language). When a child is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then a speech disorder is diagnosed. Language and speech disorders can exist together or by themselves. The problems can be mild or severe. If you suspect your child has a speech or language disorder the first step is to obtain a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist.
Your child begins watching and listening to the world around them as an infant. This early gathering of information about the world is the primary foundation on which communication skills are built. A child's communication environment can be anywhere your child happens to be...your home, the car, the park, the grocery store. Early receptive and expressive vocabulary develops from the people, places, and objects your child is exposed to. Your child will naturally talk first about these familiar places and the people and objects in them.
Tune in to Your Child!
Get down to your child's level. Be physically close and face to face.
Follow Your Child's Lead!
As adults we tend to take control and want to lead the situations. Let your child lead the direction of activities and communication. Direct communication towards what your child is doing. Letting children take the lead in activities and communication reveals their genuine interests and also builds their confidence. Follow your child's lead at least three times per day.
Let Your Child Participate!
Language learning can happen any time, anywhere. Include your child in your day-to-day work and activities. Sit on the floor with your child while folding laundry. As you sort the pieces of laundry, name each article of clothing. Talk about who in the family each item belongs to: "Mommy's sock," "Daddy's blue shirt." While riding in the car, turn off the movies and put away the devices. Talk about what you see. Talk about the different types of cars and trucks. Name the stores you pass. Talk about all the things you see while driving in the country. Let your child help you cook. It may take longer and be a littler messier, but it is a great activity for language development. It also builds great memories.
Sippy CupsAs children transition from nursing and/or bottle feeding to cup drinking, the most common type of cup we see used is the "sippy cup. " The sippy cup became popular in the 1980's when a mechanical engineer created a spill-proof cup to eliminate the mess his toddler made while drinking juice. Soon, Playtex offered a licensing deal and the rest is history. The sippy cup was developed for the convenience of the parents to reduce spills. It was never designed for developing good oral motor skills which are crucial for early speech and language development.Why do we as speech language pathologists not like sippy cups? The use of sippy cups promotes a continued use of a suckle-like pattern and can limit the child's ability to develop a more mature swallow. It prevents the tongue from moving into a more natural position for speech development. Prolonged use of sippy cups can even result in dental malocclusions such as an open bite or large gap between the upper and lower teeth when closing the top and bottom teeth together. All of which can and often do negatively impact speech and language development.Although messier and more work for the parent than the sippy cup, the best transition from nursing and/or bottle feeding is learning to drink from an open mouth cup held by the parent to reduce spills. Open mouth cups facilitate appropriate tongue positioning and increase oral motor control. Another option is a straw cup. Straw drinking is wonderful for oral motor coordination. Drinking from a straw promotes good lip rounding and is a great way to improve tongue, lip, and cheek strength and coordination all in one. Many straw cups are also spill-proof!If the idea of not using a sippy cup at all is too much to handle along with all the other tasks of parenting, then only let your child use one for a short period of time. Begin to move towards other options such as a straw cup as your child approaches their first birthday. Between the ages of two and three, children should be independently drinking from only straw cups or open mouth cups. Kicking the sippy cup habit isn't easy. It takes time and commitment, but setting your children up for success from the very beginning is a great thing.
Play DevelopmentLearning through play is fun! Young children make sense of the world through play. When we play with our children, we stimulate learning and language development.As children grow their play behavior develops and transitions through many stages. Infants begin by exploring objects. During the toddler years play advances to using toys and objects for a purpose, such as building a road with blocks. Pretend play begins to develop next as children start to use make-believe and storytelling. Advanced levels of play become more rule-oriented and structured.Allow plenty of time for "free play." Make this time a pressure free with no structured expectations. Just play, talk, and provide lots of positive feedback. Help you child discover new ways to play with a favorite toy. Adult: "Wow, you threw the ball. Look, I'm bouncing the ball." or "You're pouring the sand out. I'm going to make a sand castle." As your child's play skills develop so will the types of activities you can introduce such as rhyming games, pretend play, and follow the leader.Play is the best time to have fun and teach your child. Let your imagination run wild and help your child explore the world around them!