Twelve Ways to Encourage Toddlers to Talk| Some toddlers may have delayed expressive language, or speech. Toddlers who spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit are even more prone to having delayed talking, or expressive language skills. When you are sure that delay in speech is not related to medical issues affecting hearing, or is not a major developmental delay, there are easy ways that parents can encourage word-shy toddlers to talk.
If you do suspect a hearing issue, have your toddler tested by a professional, since hearing loss from frequent ear infections may affect speech development. Other more serious cases of language delay may be serious developmental issues which also require professional evaluation.
For toddlers who comprehend language, and can communicate using signs or gestures, they may just need a little push in the expressive language area. Here are 10 ways that parents can encourage their toddlers to talk.
1. Encourage Talking with Bubble Blowing
Encourage toddlers to play at games which involve blowing. The games could be as simple as blowing bubbles with a bubble wand.
2. Encourage Talking with Music Making
Another activity that will help speech-delayed toddlers is to give them blowing-related musical instruments. Find an age-appropriate musical instrument like a plastic flute, a kazoo, or a whistle.
3. Loose the Sippy Cups to Improve Mouth Awareness
Another way to get the toddler more aware of their expressive skills is to take away those sippy cups and replace them with cups that require straws. The toddler can blow and suck on the straw to drink their milk, water, or juice, and they will be using more areas of the mouth than just using a sippy cup which does not require the toddler to use the different muscles in their mouth.
4. Use a Mirror to Show Mouth Awareness
Sit with your toddler in your lap, facing a mirror. Talk to the toddler, drawing attention to your mouth while you speak.
5. Offer Verbal Choices
One of the more effective ways to get a toddler to talk is to offer the toddler choices when it is time for a drink, a meal or a snack. For example, do not ask the toddler what they want, give them a choice between two items. "Do you want juice or milk?"
6. Ask Simple Yes/No Questions
During the day, ask your toddler questions which require a simple yes or no response. Teach by example, by both nodding yes and saying yes at the same time. Do the same for no. The toddler who may already nod will make that connection.
7. Read Every Day to Encourage Expressive Language
When you read picture books with the toddler, use simple books that have pictures that you can label for the child. Encourage the toddler to repeat the words as you read the book together. Be patient. Some words will come more easily than others.
8. Encourage Imitation
Toddlers are natural imitators. When mom or dad makes a raspberries, or blows kisses, the toddler will follow. These simple activities also encourage the toddler to become aware and use their lips and tongue to make noises.
9. Use What They Know
The toddler with an expressive language delay may already have a small vocabulary. Those words may include mama, dada, baby, etc. When the toddler uses one of those words, repeat it and add another word. Make new connections for them with a new word and the "old" word.
10. Encourage Animal Sounds
Have you ever wondered why animals and animal sounds are such a big part of toys and books for the toddler set? The extended vowel sounds that you find in animals sounds like moo and baa are the basics that toddlers need to grow their vocabulary. Use books or toys that are animal-focused and encourage the use of animal signs and animal labeling.
11. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Parents of a toddle with an expressive language delay should be tired of their own voices. Repeat words, over and over, encouraging the toddler to repeat you and play along.
12. Encourage Verbal Communication
The toddler may know signs for more, or all done, or other important toddler concepts, and may rely on those heavily. When a toddler uses the sign, repeat the sign back to them, using the word associated with it. Repeat it several times, trying to encourage the toddler to try to imitate it back. Eventually the toddler will start using the word with the sign, and later the sign will be dropped completely.