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Speech and Language Development

Tips for parents to help speech and language development

Don't worry if some of your child's sounds are unclear. At three years old, many children...
To help your child's speech sounds develop
How could weaning help my child to talk?

Be a 'sharing parent'

WATCH: Let them choose the activity. Watch them play and see what they do
WAIT: Give them time to think about what to say or do
JOIN IN: Respond by joining in their game. Talk to your child about what is happening

What makes a good playtime?

Getting face to face - Make sure that you can see your child's eyes
Watching - So you can see what your child is interested in
Listening - So you can hear what your child wants to say. We can't listen while we are talking
Waiting - So you give your child time to do and say things
Imitating - So your child knows their ideas have been noticed. Do what your child does. Say what your child says.
Interpreting - So you give your child the words they need
Commenting - Talk about what's happening. A comment can work like magic to start a conversation
Taking turns - So your child has equal value and has a chance to express themselves with a smile, giggle or a wiggle
Asking questions - Ask questions that your child understands but don't ask too many

Tips for parents to help speech and language development

1. Talk with your child when you are together
2. Don't pressurise your child to talk or repeat himself
3. Don't ask too many questions
4. Say things in a positive way
5. Break information into chunks
6. Use pivot words - more, gone, no, want
7. Comment on what is happening - teddy's going to sleep, you're feeling a bit sleepy
8. Describe - the cake is hot
9. Explain - we can't eat yet because it's too hot
10. Pretend - let's pretend we're making another cake
11. Describe feelings - I love cake, it's yummy. You love cake too.
12. Have fun with nursery rhymes - clap them, sing them, action play them, leave the end word for your child to fill in
13. Get your child to focus on you by saying her name first when you speak
14. Use gesture and signs to support new words
15. Communicate by any means including facial expression and tone of voice.
16. Increase word power by offering choices - do you want an apple or an orange?
17. Listen to the sounds around you
18. Expand what your child says - 'Ball', 'yes, you can kick the ball to me'
19. Say things in the right order - 'go to the toilet then wash your hands'.
20. Play somewhere quiet: switch off the T.V. and radio
21. Keep things simple - One activity at a time
22. Give lots of praise

SAY IT HOW YOUR CHILD WOULD LIKE TO SAY IT: but always be positive

Don't worry if some of your child's sounds are unclear. At three years old, many children...

  • Miss out parts of words Nana (banana)
  • Use t for k/c e.g. tar for car and d for g, for example date for gate
  • Use d or t for s / ch / sh, for example puddy tat (pussy cat), tair (chair), dundine (sunshine).
  • Sometimes children can say the correct sound at the end of words but not at the beginning e.g. bus is "bus" but sun is "dun"
  • Simplify sounds - guy (sky), boon (spoon)
  • Use p for f pork (fork)
  • Say I for y lellow (yellow)
  • Say w for l bwue (blue)
  • Thr as in "three" will not be achieved by most children until they are seven years old

To help your child's speech sounds develop

Play lots of the listening games with sounds such as train noises, snakes hissing, animal noises and fun sounds.

Take specialist advice if you are concerned from your Speech and Language Therapist, even if that advice is 'don't worry'.

How could weaning help my child to talk?

There is no direct link between feeding and learning to speak – children who are fed through a tube can learn to talk.

But as babies learn how to move their lips, tongue, jaws and cheeks to eat, the same pattern happens when babies learn to babble so:

First sounds that babies learn are usually made with lips together, for example b, m and p. Lip closure is one of the first feeding movements babies learn when breast or bottle feeding and when learning how to feed from a spoon. Babies become more vocal and use more sounds after lumpy or smashed foods are introduced. At six to seven months babies begin to raise the tip of the tongue when sucking, by nine months babies begin to raise the tip of their tongue to say "t", "d" and "n". Sounds like "f", "v", "s", "z", "sh", "ch", "j", "r" and "l" develop later because they need a greater level of control using patterns of movement similar to those in chewing.

It seems to be that the most important thing is to give babies the opportunity (e.g. by offering different foods) to develop movement control of the lips, tongue, jaw and cheeks so that the patterns of movement for speech are there ready for babble to develop.