Children's Development

6 No-Pressure Ways to Boost Children’s Speech Development

Teachers and parents—how many times have you said, “use your words?”

When toddlers struggle to express their desires because they can’t use language skills to describe them, frustration and tantrums might ensue. You may be able to decipher their hand motions and grunts—but when you allow this to become a main mode of communication, you miss out on the opportunity to reinforce language skills.

Read on for some fun speech development activities that will help bolster children’s confidence to communicate with others!

1. Play “I Spy”

As a child, did you think of this as a learning game? Neither did we. However, this game is a great way to engage children in speech practice while having fun. Ask children to be as detailed as possible on the response—no pointing allowed! Just make sure you choose an object in the room that isn’t too far above their current ability to pronounce. Keep play sessions short and sweet, and gradually increase the difficulty as they gain confidence.

Ready to mix it up? Play Go Fish, 20 Questions, and other games that require questions and responses.

2. Act Like a 4-Year-Old

Whether you work with a classroom full of 4-year-olds or live with one, you know this is the age of endless questions. According to one study done in the UK, the average mother faces about 12.5 hours of questions per day. And if it wasn’t for the structure of a classroom, we’re willing to bet teachers would get 3x that number!

Make a practice of asking young children many questions throughout the day. Here are a few examples:

  • Why do we go to school?
  • What do we use our hands for?
  • Why do we hold hands when we cross the street?
  • What colors are these building blocks?

Not only are you likely to get some humorous responses, but you’re engaging children in critical thought, reasoning, and—you guessed it—speech practice. For more questions, check out these 40 Object Function Questions for Speech Therapy Practice.

3. Play Dress-Up or Make Believe

When you play dress-up or make-believe with your child, there are plenty of no-pressure opportunities for them to sharpen speaking skills. There’s something about putting on a fire hat, cape, or dragon costume that gives a child the freedom to tackle anything—even tough-to-pronounce words like “dragon!” Let kids lead the way on adventures, and ask them to describe their plans along the way. Make playtime even more fun with a rotating dress up carousel or bi-directional mirror, so you can stay organized, and kids can get their costumes just right.

3. Start a Cooking Show

A play kitchen provides plenty of opportunities for kids to use their imaginations and sharpen their vocabulary—minus the mess. Take it to the next level, and invite kids to host their own cooking show!

Ask them to describe ingredients, processes, and materials used along the way. Is that a delicious roast chicken cooking in that pot? Why do you need to wash the dishes? Where is the rest of your food? The questions can be endless. And at the end, you’ll get to enjoy a lovely imaginary meal.

4. Dive into Sand/Water Play

As children sift through sand and water tables to discover hidden objects, they will increase fine motor skills and the physics of both mediums. But the learning doesn’t stop there.

As children play alongside each other at a sand or water table (or at home with you), they learn to relax and communicate with others. Does someone else have a blue boat like theirs? Does their boat also float? Natural curiosity will most likely take over, and will have a positive impact on their language and social skills.

5. Read With Children

Reading and speech are intricately linked throughout a child’s growth and development. In fact, studies show that if a child struggles with speech impediments, she is also likely to struggle reading on her own!

Get a head start by exposing children to good books with varied vocabulary words so they can hear and understand how these words sound on their own. If they interrupt you to ask what words mean—be glad! It may be annoying, but it means they’re actively listening and ready to absorb new words that will enrich their speaking vocabulary.

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children's speech development