Infants communicate by cooing, crying, and giggling. Once they begin to grow up, their cooing turns into babbling. And soon, when they reach their first birthday, they are ready to say simple words like "mama," "dada," or "bye."
Some children take longer than others to babble or say their first words. In such situations, it is crucial to refer to a child's speech-language milestones checklist. If they are experiencing speech & language delays, it's wise to consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP). They can tell you about various exercises & activities for speech development. You can accelerate the rate of speech and language development in your child by practicing these activities at home.
The type and intensity of these activities will depend upon the age of your child and the nature of their speech or language delay.
Activities to Encourage Speech-Language Development in a Child Younger Than 2-Years
- Say simple sounds like “ma,” “pa,” “ba,” and “da” to your baby. Try to get them to say these sounds back to you.
- Always maintain eye contact with your baby when you speak to them. Look at them when they coo or babble.
- If your child is already saying words and two-word sentences, respond by repeating what they are saying. Hold a conversation with them.
- Teach them to clap their hands, touch their toes, find their nose, and play peek-a-boo.
- Point out different objects, shapes, and colors to your baby.
- Recite nursery rhymes to them or sing them a song.
- Make animal sounds. For example, you can say, “a dog goes woof” and “a cow goes moo.”
- Keep talking to your baby as you change them, bathe them, feed them, or carry them around with you.
- Use every opportunity to count objects, people, etc.
- Read to your child regularly. It doesn't matter if they are "old enough" to understand. Spoken language works as a natural stimulus. Make a habit of reading to them for at least 20 minutes before they fall asleep.
These activities to encourage speech-language development in toddlers are fun and easy. Also, remember that consistency is the key to driving tangible results.
Speech-Language Activities For Children Aged 2-4 Years
- Always speak clearly. Do not use telegraphic speech. Model good speaking habits for your child.
- Repeat what your child says and add to it. For example, let’s assume that your child points towards an apple and says, “Want apple.” You can quickly add to it and say, “Apple. Yes, that’s an apple. Do you want an apple?”
- Get picture cards, interactive games, and toys. Teach your child to categorize things into food, drinks, animals, and so on.
- Point towards an object and talk about its color. For example, spot a yellow car and say, “look. Big yellow car.” You can be at home, park, bus, train, or in your car - this activity to encourage speech-language in young children can be practiced nearly anywhere.
- To augment their comprehension skills, ask your child simple yes-no questions. “Is your name Max?” “Is that a cat?” and “do you want ice cream?” Keep the questions short and simple.
- Ask questions that involve making a choice to boost language development in a 2, 3 or 4 years old child. For example, ask them, “do you want an apple or a banana?” or “do you want juice or milk?”
- Have a karaoke night with your child frequently. Sing for them and sing with them. Include popular pop songs, nursery rhymes, and whatever songs your child finds fascinating.
- Show photos of familiar people, objects, and places. Encourage your child to name them and talk about them.
Children aged 2-4 years can acquire speech and language skills more easily if you practice some or all of the above-listed fun activities on a regular basis. Try to turn each exercise or activity into a fun experience for your child.
Speech-language Activities For Children Between The Ages Of 4 and 6 Years
- Always pay attention to your child when they are talking to you. Try to hold eye contact if that’s possible.
- Before you talk, get your child’s attention.
- When your child tells you something they have learned, observed, or heard, show interest. Ask questions and show that you have understood what they are saying.
- You can teach adjectives and prepositions to a 4, 5 or 6-years old child to encourage language development. For example, while talking, use an object's or person's position to describe them. Use words and phrases like "first," "second," "in line," "on the table," "under the chair," "up the hill" or "down by the road."
- Continue the exercise on categorizing objects by shape, type, and color.
- Give your child simple two-step instructions, such as, "go find daddy and tell him it's dinnertime."
- Use picture cards to name and describe objects or people in the picture.
- Play games on their phone or tablet. Or, watch children’s shows. Help them recognize emotions. Ask simple questions like, “does that man look happy or sad?”
- Narrate things you do around the house when they are within earshot. For example, “now we will do the dishes,” or “now we will go to the store.”
These simple and easy-to-practice activities can help young children reach their speech-language milestones more easily.
Moving on, let us discuss the top 17 activities that work for children of almost all ages:
1. Practice the Animal Jam
The fun part about this exercise to boost speech-language development in a child is that you can freestyle! Use animal picture cards or photos on an iPad or phone. Create your own version of “Old McDonald had a farm.”
Write your own rhymes and limericks that include different animals and common sounds. For example, “a cow goes moo, a dog goes woof, but a cat goes mew.”
2. Enhance Bedtime Stories
Don't just read out from books. Include funny expressions, animal and vehicle noises, and emphasize descriptive words during bedtime stories.
If your child is old enough to respond, you can ask them simple questions like, “what’s the color of the car?” or “was the tiger big?” Turn bedtime stories into a fun and interactive session for you and your child.
Bedtime storytelling with some tweaks described above can improve the learning outcomes.
3. Name the Colors
Get colored blocks or wooden blocks and paint them in different colors. While playing, point towards their toys and name the colors.
When they are old enough to understand and respond to questions, ask them, "what color is that car?" "What color are the leaves?" or "what color PJs are you wearing tonight?"
4. Name the Shapes
Get picture cards or toys of different shapes. You can find toys that teach basic shapes to children online as well. Point towards each one and say, "that's a square" or "that's a circle"
If they are older than 2-years, you can work on their comprehension skills by asking, "what shape is this?" or "is this a circle?"
5. Teach Them the Common Greetings
Your child is never too young to hear “hi,” “bye,” “good morning” and “good night.” Begin from their infancy. Whenever you see them in the morning, say “good morning” followed by your child’s name. During bedtime, always wish them “good night.”
Urge them to say “hi” and “bye” to family members and friends. These will be the foundation of social skills that your child will need throughout their life.
6. Get a Mini Karaoke Setup
You can find pocket-friendly karaoke setups for children online. Or, you can let your creative juices flow! Make a child-friendly karaoke setup. If your child isn't old enough to sing on their own, sing for them. Clap and encourage them to clap or dance.
When they are older than 2-years, pick their favorite song or rhyme, sing a line and let them sing the next line.
7. Play Monkey See, Monkey Do
Have a fun time with your child! Tell your child to imitate your expressions, words, and movements.
It's a great way to boost a child's understanding of language, cognitive skills, and coordination. Play some music in the background if that helps to get you in the groove.
8. Figuring Out the Face
Touch your nose and then touch your child's nose and say, "Nose. This is my nose. This is your nose." Similarly, touch your ears, then touch your child's ears and repeat, "Ear. This is my ear. This is your ear."
Continue this game until your child learns to touch their nose when you say "nose," or lips when you say "lips."
9. Repeat and Add
When your baby says, “nose,” add to it. Say, “nose. Yes, that’s your nose.”
If your child says, “juice.” You say, “Juice? Do you want some juice? We have apple juice and orange juice.”
10. Say Their Name
Whenever you see them after a while, always say, “Hi Max.”
Greet your child every morning, noon, evening, and night. Always say their name whether they are old enough to say it or not. It is one of the fastest methods to get a child to learn their name before they are preschool-aged.
11. Be Their Echo
When your child is younger than 6-months, they may babble or coo when they see you. Try to imitate their emotions. If they laugh, laugh with them.
If your child is a little older, they might say, "wun" and "buh" instead of "run" and "bye." Always repeat after them while pronouncing the words correctly.
12. Count Everything
"1 banana, 1 juice, and 10 nuggets" – you can count what's on your child's plate. You can count the toys they are playing with. Always count in front of your child and use your fingers to count.
Encourage your child to count after you as well. Play silly games like, “You have 5 chicken nuggets. How many more do you want?” or “how many scoops of ice cream are you having today?”
13. Play Peek-A-Boo
This speech-language development activity is for children younger than one year. Use sheets, towels, or even your hands to play peek-a-boo with your child. Make sure they are having fun. When they laugh, laugh with them.
Simple games like peek-a-boo will strengthen your child’s cognition.
14. Use Sock Puppets
Whenever you have time, use sock puppets to tell interactive stories. You can make your own or buy one online.
Make animal sounds and common onomatopoeic noises to engage your child’s language processing abilities.
15. Introduce Them to Common Fruits and Veggies
When your child is older than 2 years, include this fun activity to boost their speech-language development.
Spread out the common vegetables and fruits you have in the house. Point at them and name them. State their shape, color, and taste as well.
16. Build a Fort
Make-believe play is very important to boost a child's imagination and cognition. You can build a fort with your child where your child can pretend to be the king and give you directions.
Play kitchen and let your child host make-believe tea parties.
These are all games that will help your child become a creative and intelligent individual.
17. Setup Playdates
If you have other children in the neighborhood, think about organizing weekly playdates. It can be at your house, the other child's house, or a park.
Supervise the children when they are playing. Introduce interactive toys that make sounds with the press of buttons. Give them child-friendly puzzles.