In the US, about 8% of young children have communication problems. Speech and language delay is when a child is not developing his/her speech and language skills at an expected rate. There are several causes why children have speech delays. If you suspect your child is having trouble communicating, it is best to seek help from a professional such as a speech-language therapist. In this blog post, we will be providing tips and different speech delay activities you can do at home. Read for more!
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Babies are born ready to learn! The most intensive period for children to acquire speech and language is in the first three years of life. During this time, the child needs a stimulating environment for him/her to learn and develop their brain better.
When children are not yet capable of talking, it does not mean they are not capable of understanding how the world works. During this period, it is important to start introducing concepts already! It can be frustrating for parents as children express hunger, sleepiness, and basic needs the same way – through crying. That’s a good thing! Crying is the first sign of communication. However, when children start to grow older, crying should be replaced with gestures and words. If children remain communicating through crying, it might be a sign of speech delay.
The difference between a delay and a disorder
A delay is just a gap between a child’s chronological age and his/her speech and language skills compared to his/her age-peers. A child with language delay shows signs of slow onset and progress of language skills and speech skills. They might also have a harder time acquiring new skills than other children their age.
Research shows that children with speech or language delays follow the same typical developmental track. However, they acquire new skills slower.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a disorder is when children have a significant impairment in the acquisition and use of language across modalities (e.g., speech, sign language, or both). It is a result of difficulties comprehending and producing language in all five domains of language (i.e., phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics).
In those kids, we think it was simply a delay, whereas other kids — about 25 percent of late talkers — continue to have difficulty with language. These children are usually diagnosed, in preschool years or elementary years, with language impairment.
10 Activities you can do at home
Now that we know what speech delay is, let us talk about different speech therapy activities and tips you can do to foster your child’s speech and language skills. Remember, you are your child’s first teacher. Applying these tips will not only start your child’s journey, but it can also educate you on what concepts to teach first and an idea on how to teach them!
1. Play daily
Children learn best through play. Playing is a fun way to teach your child different concepts such as teaching colors, animal toys, and even actions. Set aside at least 30 minutes to an hour each day without any distractions. Your time and attention. That is the best gift you can give to your child to help foster their ability to label different toys and how to use them properly. They can have all the toys in the world, but if you don’t spend time with them, they are not going to learn new things.
2. Keep it simple
Children don’t need many toys. You need to choose open-ended toys that can be played in many different ways and promote social interaction. However, spending time outdoors is better! It can promote creativity and imagination. Not only does it allow them to think more freely, but it can also get them moving! Nature can activate more senses. They can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments!
3. Read books
Another speech delay activities you can do at home is to read books! Books can be fascinating. Reading books with lots of colorful pictures can entertain your child while he/she learns new concepts. When reading a book, it is better to ask questions and leave out words that are easily anticipated such as the sounds of animals. Books can also practice your child’s problem-solving skills. This is proven to improve their cognitive and imaginative skills.
Not only does a book create a bond between you and your child, but it can also increase their attention. At first, your child might easily get distracted and squirm during reading time. However, in time, they will learn how to stay put for the duration of the book.
4. Teaching feelings and emotions
Understanding your child’s emotions is a vital part of their overall development. It is our role as adults to teach them how to cope with their emotions in a more appropriate way.
As young children start to communicate, they might get frustrated easily. Research shows that children use the right side of their brain, where emotions are processed when they experience an overwhelming experience. That’s why they cry almost every time. Teaching feelings will help them get the validation they deserve and not punished.
Teaching feelings is important (i.e. happy, sad, angry, frustrated, jealous, surprised, scared) to help them deal with them the next time they experience an unforgettable situation. For example, a doctor’s appointment can be scary. Remind your child “It’s okay to tell me what you feel, but this is important for you and your health.” Teaching feelings and how to regulate them can help them regularly is critical for their overall mental health.
At 18 – 29 months, children begin to learn colors. Other children may learn colors sooner or later but teaching colors at this age is a great time. When you start teaching colors to your child, it is best to start with the basics first: yellow, red, green, and blue. When they master these colors, introduce the other colors of the rainbow and repeat, repeat, repeat! Repetition is key to mastery.
Speech delay activities in teaching colors include:
Singing songs such as the Rainbow song or the Color Song
Playing colorful blocks or balls
Categorizing the same colored objects at home
Using play dough
6.Teach sign language
As your child starts to learn how to speak, it can be difficult to communicate with them. They might use the same vocalization to express a request or hunger. Teaching the basic sign language can offer a way to help them express their wants and needs!
No, it does not stunt your child’s development. On the contrary, it will give them a tool to start talking or more. Sign language can promote bonding and early development. Teaching your child different sign language basics such as give, more, or help can give them a sense of freedom to express their feelings and not get frustrated. Eventually, they will learn how to use words to communicate more effectively.
7. Put things out of reach
One technique speech therapists use to encourage your child to use their current communication skills and push them to practice new communication skills is to put favorable toys, snacks, and activities within sight but out of reach. This creates an opportunity for the child to gain the attention of a caregiver and engage in communication to request the desired item.
Place items on shelves or in clear bins so that your child can see the items but can’t quite get to them. If your kid can request items that are out of sight, keep them in containers on shelves or behind cabinet doors. This strategy can help kids learn to functionally use their communication skills to request preferred items or snacks rather than having unlimited access to these items.
8. Sing songs
Another way to optimize your child’s learning is to sing children’s songs and nursery rhyme with them. It is a vital part of your speech therapy activities. Toddlers love to dance and move to music! Songs can improve their general mood. It encourages speech because of how upbeat and enjoyable it can be. It is also a modality for children to learn more concepts and practice their memory.
9. Use every day as an opportunity
Routines such as taking a bath, eating breakfast, and changing clothes can be great opportunities to teach a lot of concepts! Since it is done every day, it can be repeated throughout the day! When learning new concepts, it is important to practice and use them every day to maintain them. The more you introduce the concept, the more they generalize and produce more words.
10. Use Self-Talk
Self-talk is a technique used throughout speech therapy activities. Self-talk is merely just talking about what you are doing. For example, you and your child are playing with a ball. Describe what it is (i.e. This is a ball), the actions you are performing (i.e. I can bounce the ball), what you see(i.e. it is round and blue), how you feel (i.e. I like to play with the ball), and what you hear (i.e. Ops! What is that thug?). Talk about all of this! Your child will eventually learn from hearing you talk about all of those things. The key is to keep your utterances short and simple.
As a general rule of thumb, you should speak in phrases that are the same length as your child’s or slightly longer. This is what we call chunking. For example, if your child isn’t talking yet or is only using one word at a time, you should be speaking in one-word phrases and two-word phrases, like “Car. Push. Push Car”. If your child is using mostly single words but is beginning to put a few two-word phrases together, use a lot of two-word phrases when you speak to your child but also throw in some three-word utterances as well as a few one-word utterances.
Don’t be afraid to repeat those same words many times. These children learn through repetition!
When to Seek Professional Help
Now that you know the different ways to teach your child some vital concepts and different speech therapy activities, you might be wondering for more. If you think your child is not acquiring new skills at a specific rate typical children develop, it is best to consult a professional. A speech-language therapist can identify what speech or language problems your child has. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the treatment. The better the result!
At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.
About the Author
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.