NOTE: BEFORE YOU DIVE INTO THIS LIST of 10 speech therapy ideas to do at home:
If your child has speech delays, call a local speech pathologist to have your child assessed. Work on a plan to help your child reach success. You can find a speech pathologist through your pediatrician or your local Early Intervention Program.
I wanted to give you 10 speech therapy ideas to do at home because you, as the parent, are your child’s best teacher. I am a play therapist (not a SLP), so I work with many speech-delayed children, in conjunction with their speech language pathologist (birth-age 3) and these activities work great with them in the home, in between therapy sessions. It does not replace therapy and should not replace therapy. These are simply EXTRA ideas to do when you are home, playing with your child. I have included many affiliate links in this post to take you straight to my favorite toys and products.
1. Do Not Have the TV on in the Background.
The background noise can actually make it harder for a child. Contrary to what many think, TV in the background does not enhance development. According to JAMA Pediatrics, “children with frequent television viewing…would have delayed development of meaningful word speech.”
In one study, American children between ages of 6 and 12 months were exposed to native Chinese speakers in person and to the same native Chinese speakers on video. The infants who had real people interacting with them recognized and responded to specific phonemes, and those exposed to the video did not. What this seems to show is that human interaction appears to be critical in the complex process of language development.
But when the TV is on, parents tend not to talk as much to their children. And given that babies learn language from live people—particularly their parents!—having the TV on could be detrimental to that process. ~Expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston.
2. Teach Sign Language.
There are studies to show a correlation between sign language and speech. If nothing else, it stops the huge frustration that children are feeling.
I focus on the biggies: more, mine, help, Mommy, Daddy, please, thank you (please & thank you are added in there just to teach your little one good manners!) However, instead of simply teaching “more” teach him or her “ball” (or the name of what you are playing with) each time he wants “more ball”. If he’s hungry he could request eat or the specific food. This motivates children more.
Typically when children first begin to talk it’s by requesting the actual item or action such as ball, milk, blanket, momma, daddy, car, doll. Requesting things they can see will be easier to learn and understand in the beginning. “More” may be over generalized a
3. Make Printable Magnets for Your Refrigerator.
Add magnets that has his favorite things (juice, cereal…) and when he wants something, he can bring that to you. (make sure he can’t choke on them.
How to make them: I use a large flat magnet paper. I glue a white sheet of card-stock on it and cut into squares. I then draw pictures onto them with the things that your child might need: cup, food, bed, favorite toy, etc… We are trying to ELIMINATE frustration because kids with a speech delay often become frustrated easily. (wouldn’t you?)
4. Spend 40 Minutes Just Playing with Him.
Use simple words “Car fast!” or “Red ball”. To see all of the benefits of playing, check out this post on how & why we need to play with our kids.
5. Work with Simple Flash Cards
I love these touch & feel flash cards, because kids aren’t just auditory or visual learners. Say the name of the object & have them repeat it. Labeling is HUGE for a child with a speech delay. ps- You might want to get a flash card app for babies or toddlers- they are free).
6. Get a Cotton Ball & Straw
Put the cotton ball down on the table or on the floor. Now, take a straw & let him blow through it to make a cotton ball move (have the cotton ball on the table). This will help with the oral muscles needed for speech.
(As a therapist following the guidelines of evidence-based practice, it is important to understand that non-speech oral motor exercises (e.g. sucking and blowing through a straw) have not been shown to be completely effective or ineffective. Their use must be considered experimental. Lof provides a great overview of the existing evidence and the citation is as follows: Lof, G. L., (2009). Nonspeech oral motor exercises: An update on the controversy. ASHA Convention 2009, 1-9.)
7. Drink with a Straw, but Not Just Liquids.
Change it up a bit and use the straw to drink many different textures (water, milk, applesauce, pureed fruits, milkshakes)… This will help to strengthen the muscles in their mouth, making speech easier when they are ready.
8. Use silly straws for Drinking
I use these curly/wavy straws. These are great because they take a little more muscular strength and work than the average straw.
9. Put Some Things Out of Reach
I do this with something that you know your child will want (a favorite book or favorite toy) and they will have to ask you for help when getting it. Teach them to come and get you and take you (by taking you the hand) to what he/she wants OR by getting you the magnet off of the fridge (did you read that tip above?) Show your child the sign for help and say “Help” when they are asking you. You are modeling this behavior for him/her. Children are more likely to talk when they want something.
10. Praise Their Efforts
These are just some things that I practice with my speech delayed clients & that I have done with our own children. Praising your children has a profound effect on their success, because of the increase in self-esteem and self-worth.
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I have also posted about the different nutrition supplements that have been recommended for speech delays. Ask your doctor before starting them, but they helped our son. Our neurologist said that he suggests them for anyone suffering from a developmental delay, because nutrition profoundly impacts learning, speech and development.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on speech delays, please contact your local early intervention office. You can always start with Play Therapy.
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