Bag of Tricks: Speech & Language Tools

  • 25 Months 2 Weeks - Asking Longer Questions

    Roman striking a poseYou may have already heard your child asking one-word questions such as “what” and “where”. It’s now time to try to encourage longer “wh” questions so they can make their thoughts known and obtain information out of people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

    Roman smelling the flowersFor instance, if your child says “Where mommy?” you can model “Where did Mommy go?” or if your child asks “What is this?” you can expand by saying “What is this one called?” Feel free to ask a variety of questions throughout the day so they start to understand the syntax required to ask a question. For instance, if you are walking and see a fire truck you can say “WHO drives the firetruck?”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

    Roman playing with fishThe best way to target “what” is by showing them pictures of items they do not know the name.  For instance, if they are into dinosaurs it could be a picture of a dinosaur they have never seen.  Using motivating topics is best!  Or to target “where”, you can pretend to leave or hide items to target questions like “Where is the giraffe?”.  We love using occupation figurines (e.g. – doctor, teacher, chef, etc.) to target “who”.  

  • 25 Months 1 Week - Fostering a Love for Letters

    Roman working on puzzlesYou may have been noticing that your child is more into letters these days!  They may be going to school where it is a print-rich environment or they may be around lots of puzzles.  Whatever the reason is there’s lot of ways to foster the love for letters.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

    Roman playing catOne of our favorite toys to target letter is the Melissa and Doug See and Spell wooden puzzle.  We love it because it not only has the letters but the picture of the item you are spelling.  Of course at this age they do not have to label letters, say letter sounds, or spell/read words, but it is the perfect time to start introducing letter sounds.  Letter magnets are also a great way to target letters sounds.                                                                                                                                                                                   

    Roman at the YO signOther toddler-friendly ways to target letter sounds is through their 5 senses.  For instance, you can trace letters in shaving cream or make letters with play dough.  We even love eating our letters in alphabet soup!  And it does not always have to be a planned activity.  You can be walking down the street and spell out the letters of a store or driving down the road and spell out the letters on a truck you see.  And of course reading and singing letter songs like the alphabet is a perfect way to encourage love for letters!

  • 25 Months - Recalling Past Events

    Roman Fishing We know everyone has the classic problem of getting no answer when you ask your child “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?”.  Even at this age children are beginning to recall what they did recently.  Our first tip is to keep questions open-ended.  Instead say “Tell me about your day” or “I want to hear about all the fun things you did today”.  

    Another tip is – pictures, pictures, pictures!  Take a few pictures during your outings or even at home.  At the end of the day review what you did using the pictures as visual support.  For instance, it could be “Today we went to the zoo.  First we saw, eagles, then flamingos, then bears, etc.”  If you want them to remember very specific things like what they had for breakfast then simply take a picture of breakfast!  Videos are always an excellent resource as well!  Creating photo albums is also great for working on long-term memory.  

    And of course like we always say continue talking about what you are doing all day.  The more you talk using consistent words the more it will stick in your child’s memory.  At this point you can talk about a variety of actions, nouns, adjectives, prepositions, and more!  You will see your child’s face staring at you in amazement as they’re taking everything like a sponge.  

  • 24 Months 3 Weeks - Concept of Recurrence

    Roman wanting more chips At this point your child may have graduated from using just “more” to get more of an item.  You are going to see more novel word combinations such as “I want that too” or “I want another one”.  The best way to encourage these phrases is by verbally modeling them yourself and creating opportunities for your children to use them.  

    To create these opportunities, only give your children a little bit of each item.  For instance, if their eating Cheerios just give them 5 since they are obviously going to want more.  You can then show it to them in your hand to motivate a phrase that requires recurrence (or a fancy word for more!).  

    There are many times throughout the day you can do this such as mealtime, snack time, play time (e.g. – withholding blocks), story time (e.g. – do not turn the page and have them ask for  more of the book), bath time, etc.  We love finding fun, new ways to extend phrases!

  • 24 Months 2 Weeks - Using “I” in Sentences

    Roman with all the moms Everything is “I I I I” and the world revolves around them.  When they finally get the concept of “I” and that it is actually them they will start commenting on their actions like no other!                                                                                                                      

    We find it often happens with things that “go wrong”.  For instance, if something broke they may say “I broke” or if they’re falling they say “I falling”.  Use any opportunity to comment on what you are doing, so they begin to understand the concept.  If you are cooking, you can say “I’m cutting”, “I’m mixing”, etc.

    A great way to get longer “I” statements out of them is asking questions such as “What are you doing” or “Tell me about what you’re doing” to keep it open-ended.  It may lead to “I eating yogurt” or “I playing Legos” - and hopefully one day “I giving Mommy a massage!” ;)  And it doesn’t always have to be an action… you can move onto feelings or attributes such as “I sad” or “I have blue eyes”.  

    This will later lead to the concept of “you” as you keep talking about what you are doing at the moment and what they are doing such as “I am reading” and “You are playing”.  It is also helpful to point to who you are talking about so it becomes more visual.  Have fun teaching pronouns!

  • 24 Months 1 Week - Answering a Variety of “Wh” Questions

    Roman with dino capThe most difficult part of answering a “wh” questions is actually knowing the meaning of the “wh” word. For instance, you have to know that “who” is asking for a person, “where” is asking for a place, “what” is asking for a thing, “when” is referring to a time, and “why” is asking for a reason. “When” and “where” may still be too complicated for this age, but it’s always good to throw it in here and there.

    When talking about “who” you can stick to basic things like looking through a photo album to label family members names or you can make it harder as in “Who drives a bus?”.  Visual support is always welcome at this age and can be in the form of pictures, illustrations in books, videos, etc.  And remind them that “who” is asking for a person.    

    As for “what”, it could be as simple as asking “What is this?” while using a flashcard, reading a book, etc.  This usually only encourages a one-word response since it is not open-ended.  You can make it slightly more complicated by saying “What do you see?”, “What do you need?”, etc.  This allows for them to use a start phrase such as “I see a duck”.  You can then go onto more difficult questions such as “What does a cow say?”, “What do you wear when it’s hot?”  

    When referring to “where” they have to know that you are asking about a place, so we find that when you’re walking down the street, driving, etc. it is helpful to talk about where you are going.  You can even talk about the immediate here and now and ask “Where are you right now?” (e.g. – at home, in the car, in the stroller, etc.).  It also gradually helps them understand concepts that are not tangible such as “Where is daddy?” (e.g. – work, on a business trip, etc.) – actual pictures of daddy at his workplace would also be great!

  • 24 Months - Narrating One’s Own Actions During Play

    Roman lining up his toys in pretend play Your child has come to a point where they can play independently and it is time for them to join their play with words. At first, they may be labeling objects they’re picking up or see. Let’s say they’re in their play kitchen and they say “banana”. You can expand on it by creating a phrase “Let’s PEEL the banana”. Emphasize novel words and unique parts of a phrase to allow it to stand out to your child.  

    It’s all about input they are receiving. The more verbal modeling that you provide during play, everyday errands, etc. the more likely they are to start narrating their own actions. Feel free to initiate structured play with them.  For instance, grab a tea set and start setting it up by saying phrases such as “Here’s a plate”. Then, take the teapot and say “Pouring tea”, pretend to drink it and say “Drinking tea” or “Wow!  It’s hot!”, etc.  

    Another alternative is to chime in when they have already initiated play with an item on their own. “Oh the car is going up up up the garage!”, “The car needs gas!”, “We’re driving fast!”, etc.  They do not have to repeat everything you are saying, but you are giving their actions words and meaning. You are also adding new vocabulary to their repertoire.  For example, they may already know “car”, but “gas” might be a new word. To give it extra meaning, talk about getting gas when you’re actually at the gas station.  Real life situations will encourage them to make more connections and make them more apt to using new words and longer phrases when on their own.  

  • 23 Months 3 Weeks - Playing Doctor & How to Encourage Language

    Roman loves flowers By this time your toddler is really getting a handle of basic body parts such as eyes, nose, mouth, legs, etc.  It’s a perfect time to build on that during play.  For instance, you can use it while playing a game of tickling, modified Simon Says, or our favorite pretend play with a doctor kit.

    A medical kit contains a ton of items such as a bandaid, stethoscope, needle, thermometer, etc. and it gives your child a chance to act out a familiar routine.  If your child is labeling individual body parts, you can use the pretend play to expand to 2-3 word phrases.  If you’re focused on your nose you can say “Uh Oh!  Nose (is) broken!” or “Oh no!  (My) nose hurts!  Many children find it funny when “something goes wrong”, so the language will stand out to them!

    Later on, you can expand work on more advanced body parts such as “elbow” and requesting specific items such as “shot”.  It’s also a way to work on initiating questions such as “Are you okay?”, “What hurts?”, “What happened?”, etc.  You can even work on commenting using temperature such as “You feel hot”.  It even works on the skills of empathy and how others could be feeling.  All in all, it’s a great way to expand their imagination and may even make them less scared of going to the real doctor!  

  • 23 Months 2 Weeks - Never Too Early to Work on the /s/ Sound

    Do you hear your toddler producing /s/ with their tongue out? It’s never too early to model the correct production and try to correct it.  Lisps are often very difficult to correct as a child gets older, so our motto is the earlier the better!

    This part is too complicated for toddlers, but just so you know as an adult we produce the /s/ sound by putting our tongue tip on the alveolar ridge (bumpy ridge right behind our top teeth).  You can show a toddler this by having them look at you or looking at a mirror while you overemphasize the sound to try to show them where their tongue goes.  Sometimes we even like to use a tongue depressor or our finger to show them where our bumpy ridge is – for older children we even put a little bit of peanut butter on the spot so they know where their tongue is supposed to touch.  

    TAG As for the manner in which the sound is produced it is called a fricative, which means it is a “hissing” type sound and air escapes through the teeth causing friction.  One thing you can do which works with my toddler is bringing your teeth together or telling them to bite down while producing /s/.  This may sound a bit exaggerated, but it makes sure their tongue does not come out.

    Many other articulation errors are age-appropriate and can be categorized into phonological processes or patterns, but it is definitely important to keep an eye out and always model correct production.  These issues sometimes grow into articulation disorders (which later may manifest themselves into problems with reading and writing) and you want your child to be understood by all listeners and to be able to form friendships easily.  

    TAGWe have two resources if you need further help. Our interactive iBooks: Vowels & Diphthongs and our Consonants iBook.

  • 23 Months 1 Week -How to Deal with Terrible Twos in Speech Therapy Fashion

    Roman jumping up and down Oh boy!!  Have you entered the Terrible Twos yet?  We have here!  Yes it might be early, but we are in the depths of it.  Crying, screaming, hitting, laying yourself on the ground – you name it.  It’s actually a very natural phase.  Although we see it as negative behavior, it is really more a phase for your toddler to use their voice, gauge their power, and see what they can get away with.  

    We like to think of the first step in speech and language fashion.  Let’s say you see your child gradually becoming upset and you want to try to prevent it from escalating.  You can start off by saying “I know you’re feeling sad Johnny took the toy from you.  Why don’t we go over there and try to ask for it back?  And then once you play with it for 5 minutes we can give him a turn”.  

    If you see the behavior getting out of control what we often like to do is to take him away from the situation to get the attention off.  At this point we feel that ignoring works best (making sure they are not hurting themselves of course).  

    Once they calm down (it make take 5-10 or more minutes!), we always find that praising them for good behavior such as keeping their body calm, calming down, keeping their hands down, standing up, etc. is the way to go.  Keep it simple while using positive language such as “Good keeping your feet down!”.  This way you are reinforcing positive behavior and not negative behavior.  Different techniques of course work for different children, but in our case we’ve seen the explanation of feelings in the beginning greatly diminish negative behavior.  We wish you all the luck in the world!  ;)