8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language

As your child’s speech and language skills emerge in early childhood, you will play a critical role in his or her progress. While you may not realize it, there are many tips to promote speech and jumpstart your toddler’s language development during daily activities and routines. The following pages will explain some of the most successful strategies recommended by speech-language pathologists.

Self-Talk & Parallel-Talk

What They Are?
Self-talk is a strategy in which you narrate what you are doing, and when using the parallel-talk strategy, you narrate what your child is doing, to create a language-rich environment.

Why They Work?
Self-talk and parallel-talk expose your child to a wide variety
of language across his or her day. A child must understand words and hear them used in context before he or she will begin to use those words.

How To Use Them?
Narrate activities occurring around your child, as well as what you and your child are doing. Use short and simple sentences, not only to make it easier for your child to understand, but to also make it easier for him or her to pick out words he or she might imitate!

When To Use Them?
Self-talk and parallel-talk can be incorporated in activities across your entire day.

Self-Talk & Parallel-Talk - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Verbal Routines

What It Is?
When using verbal routines you say the same routine-specific phrase each time you do a given daily routine. Eventually, you will pause and wait for your child to fill in the last word of the phrase.

Why It Works?
Verbal routines repetitively expose your child to predictable language across his or her day. By using specific phrases every time you do a specific routine, your child will eventually anticipate your words and help you fill in the last word in the sequence if you pause and wait expectantly! He or she may even begin to use the whole phrase independently when you do the routine.

How To Use It?
Use familiar songs, nursery rhymes, or make up short phrases while completing daily routines. Every time you complete this activity with your child, say the phrase. When your child appears to recognize the verbal routine after hearing it many times, try leaving off the last word. Look at your child expectantly and see if he or she fills in the blank. If he or she doesn’t get it this time, fill in the blank, and try again next time!

When To Use It?
Use your verbal routines every time you complete a routine activity. This can include turning on and off lights, putting on and taking off socks and shoes, washing hands, getting in and out of the car, bedtime, pushing cars down a ramp, blowing bubbles, or other favorite play routines.

Verbal Routines - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Communicative Temptations

What Is It?
When using communicative temptations, you place motivating items out of reach from your child to elicit communication.

Why It Works?
By setting up your child’s environment with highly desired items out of reach, you are creating motivating opportunities for your child to communicate.

How To Use It?
Find an item (e.g., a favorite toy) that is highly motivating for your child. Place the item up on a shelf out of reach, inside a container they cannot open, or use a toy that requires your help to make it work (e.g., bubbles, windup toys). Make sure your child sees the item (or give them the container or toy) and wait! Don’t anticipate your child’s needs by helping them right away. When your child communicates that he or she wants the item (by pointing, gesturing and, or vocalization) praise him or her by providing the item or helping with it. Repeat this sequence multiple times to give your child many opportunities to communicate.

When To Use It?
This can be used best during playtime and snack time.

Communicative Temptations - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Withholding

What Is It?
When using the strategy of withholding, you wait for your child to request an item or action with a word before giving it to him or her.

Why It Works?
Rather than anticipating your child’s needs, withholding creates more opportunities for your child to use his or her new words! This strategy targets words your child already has in his or her vocabulary to encourage more consistent usage.

How To Use It?
When your child indicates he or she wants something by pointing to it or using other non-verbal communication, say to your child, “Use your words” or, “tell me”. Wait, and if your child does not respond, give a verbal model of the word (e.g., “Ball”) and avoid giving your child a command to say the word (e.g., “Say ball”). When your child verbally responds, give him or her the item.

When To Use It?
This strategy can be used any time your child requests an item or action of a word he or she already has in his or her vocabulary.

Withholding - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Language Expansion

What Is It?
When using language expansion, you take a word your child just said and repeat it back in a phrase adding one or two more words to it.

Why It Works?
By adding one or two more words to your child’s utterance, you help promote word combinations by giving them a direct model for expanding his or her utterances.

How To Use It?
After your child says a word or phrase, repeat the word or phrase back with one or two additional words. Vary the type of word(s) you add, such as an adjective, verb, pronoun, noun, or location.

When To Use It?
Expansions can be used anytime your child uses a single word or phrase.

Language Expansion - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Three Statements to One Question

What Is It?
When using the three statements to one question, you make three statements for every one question you ask your child.

Why It Works?
Asking questions or “testing” your child throughout the day can be stressful. This strategy helps limit the number of questions you ask your child and increases the number of statements you model. By doing this, you provide your child with a wider variety of language models and reduce frustration that can arise from feeling “tested” with questions.

How To Use It?
While playing with your child, consciously make three comments before asking any questions. When you do ask a question, make sure you make three more comments before asking another one. If you ask two questions in a row, try to make six statements before asking another question.

When To Use It?
When you first use this strategy, you may realize how often you tend to ask your child questions. Start by using this strategy during one activity each day, such as bathtime, playtime, or storytime. Once you practice this strategy frequently, it will become easier for you to use throughout the day!

Three Statements to One Question - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Giving Choices

What Is It?
When giving choices, you provide your child with two verbal choices and encourage him or her to imitate the name of the item he or she chooses.

Why It Works?
This strategy provides your child with a verbal model of a word he or she can imitate, while still letting him or her make a decision independently. By giving your child choices, you also help reduce your time spent playing “the guessing game.”

How To Use It?
Provide your child with two clear verbal choices. Wait for your child to respond and give him or her the item he or she requested. If your child does not respond, hold up the two choices (if possible) while labeling them. If your child points, respond with, “Use your words to tell me” and model the word again to encourage imitation.

When To Use It?
Anytime there are a limited number of choices available to your child. Great times to try it are during snack, playtime, or while getting dressed.

Giving Choices - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language
Wait Time

What Is It?
When using wait time, you pause and give your child time to respond before asking the question again or providing a verbal prompt.

Why It Works?
When children are still developing speech and language skills, they require time to first figure out what is being asked of them and to then figure out how to respond. If we continue to give the child verbal input, they may have more difficulty processing the information. By waiting, they are given time to think, as well as a social cue (e.g., expectantly waiting) that it is their turn to talk!

How To Use It?
When you ask your child a question, pause and look at your child expectantly. After waiting a few seconds, you can repeat the question or help guide your child towards a response by giving them choices or other clues.

When To Use It?
You can use wait time any time you ask your child a question. Great times are during storytime, mealtime, and playtime.

Wait Time - Chicago Speech Therapy 8 Tips to Promote Speech & Language

Are you concerned about your child’s progress in speech and language development?

Contact Karen
Contact Karen & Chicago Speech Therapy

Are you concerned about your child’s progress in speech and language development?

Contact Karen
Contact Karen & Chicago Speech Therapy