Last month, I did a poll on my Instagram stories (@montessoriplaying) and a huge percentage of followers voted that they’d like to see a blog post about developing toddler speech. In this post, I will outline some strategies I’ve used from Stella’s early weeks to current play based learning that enhances her talking skills. Please feel free to add any tips of your own in the comments as I’m always keen to discover new ideas!
As a first time mum, I wasn’t really aware that Stella was a ‘good talker’ until her 14 month assessment when the health visitor said she could have ticked all the ‘language and communication’ outcomes for the 30 month assessment! Also, during her nursery induction days, her nursery teacher commented on her ‘exceptional’ language skills. I like to think that at least some of this comes from the hours and hours we spend weekly doing research-based, educational play activities that I’ll now share:
1. SING. SING. SING.
Even if your singing skills are non existant belt out those nursery rhyme classics- your little person won’t mind that you’re not Pavarotti. I have sung to Stella since she was a mere zygote! I sing her a good morning song, I make up ridiculous songs, I sing in public, in the car, at Bath time. She has always loved it and since around 18 months she has been joining in and filling blanks that I leave out of familiar tunes for example-
Me: ‘the wheels on the bus go ______’
Stella: ’round and round’
If your nursery rhyme lyrics are a little bit rusty, check out book-bug classes (they’re now online) or listen to YouTube videos (personally I love ‘little baby bum’).
Every minute of every day with Stella I narrate everything we do. This might sound extreme it’s just become second nature to me and I like talking anyway! When were at home I may say “Stella is sitting at her toddler chair, she’s eating breakfast, her plate is pink, wow she’s using a big girl spoon“. On the go I may say “Oh the dog is running fast. It’s got a ball. The ball is red.” Narrating is so valuable when it comes to building your child’s vocabulary.
As your toddler’s vocabulary grows, encourage them to talk by asking simple questions during narration. For example, as I dress Stella I’ll say, “mummy is putting on your _____”, “socks”. I’ll use a questioning tone and await Stella’s response. Try to remember that toddlers take a bit longer to process information, so you may have to wait for a response. It’s so tempting to jump in and answer for them but refrain and allow them to answer themselves. You may need to ask more than once, which is fine! If your toddler simply won’t answer, eventually model this for them by answering and repeating.
4. USE PROPS!
Many children are very visual learners and benefit from seeing a realistic item in front of them. When Stella was born we were given a fantastic gift- a box of croched toys that correspond to popular nursery rhymes. In the early days, I held these in front of Stella as I sang to her, soon she was grabbing out for them and by 7 months old , she could pass me specific objects. I would sit three or four of the toys in front of Stella- humpty dumpy, incy wincy, mother duck and the boat, for example–and say “give mummy incy wincy” and she would pass me the spider toy. Now that she’s a bit older, I ask her to name the toys herself by saying “whose this?“, “incy wincy“. I have also used toy food to help Stella to develop this vocabulary. We have the soft fruits from IKEA and wooden food from Aldi. It’s so easy to adapt this to teach colours as well. I have recently purchased Stella a puppet theatre that I’ll keep aside until Christmas–I just know this will be an excellent tool in her further developing her speech and perhaps beginning to use imaginary dialogue such as “I’m the big bad woolf“.
5. USE BOOKS
As an English teacher, I could not ignore the benefit of books in developing speech. Surprisingly, many toddler books have quite elaborate plots but I recommend sticking to simple and repetitive stories. Books can be picked up very cheaply in charity shops and online and the earlier you can get your child experiencing the local library, the better. Some of my favourite toddler books are the Julia Donaldson classics, “Ten little fingers and ten little toes” and the Usbourne “That’s not my…” collection. When Stella was a baby, I would read to her and point to pictures and offer her pieces of simple vocabulary- “look, a cat“, for example. As she developed, I would encourage her to point out pictures to me- “Peter pointer touch the cat“. Now I point to the pictures again, but expect Stella to name the object–“what’s that?”, “a cat“. I normally choose 5 books a week and we read all 5 books every day. This may seem extreme but there are many benefits to this level of repetition and when the time comes I know it will help Stella to become a better reader. At 20 months she has already memorised full books!
I hope you have found some of these tips useful. I am going to create a story sequence over at @montessoriplaying of some of the tips in action, please check it out.
Feel free to share this post if you’ve found it useful.
Love Paula xxx