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Tips for Teaching Language to Your Toddler During Daily Routines

As a busy parent, hearing that your child needs help talking can be overwhelming. You already have a Teaching Languageto-do list that feels a mile long— When are you supposed to find time to work on teaching language? The good news is there are ways to incorporate language into the routines that you already do every day! One of the tricks to helping your toddler talk is for YOU to do a lot of the talking. Children need to hear words over and over again to understand them. Just like if you’ve ever learned a second language, they want to hear it a lot before trying it out for themselves! The key here is to focus on doing the talking to build up your toddler’s understanding, which will help her to become confident and ready to use the words with less and less help.

Here are a few daily routines that are perfect to work on teaching language:

Bath time:

  • Describe what you are doing during bath time. Remember to keep the language simple so your toddler can focus on the words. As you do this every day, your toddler will remember the routine, and may begin to fill in the blanks (e.g. Dad: “Shirt on! Socks….” Toddler: “On!”). While doing these actions, tell your child:
    • “Shirt off! Socks off! Pants off!”
    • “Diaper on! Socks on! Shirt on!  Pants on!”
    • “Duck in! Boat in!”
    • “Duck out! Boat out!”
  • Use action words while playing in the bath tub
    • A cup can be a great toy for playing. You can show your child how to “pour” the water. If your child is working on requests, she can request for you to “pour,” she can say “my turn” to have a turn pouring (just be careful so she doesn’t try to drink the bath water!), and she can request “all done” when she wants to finish playing with the cup.
    • Describe cleaning actions to your child. Tell her “Wash,” “Rinse,” and “Wipe” while you are giving her a bath. These words are especially important as your little one may be working on washing her hands more independently soon.

Bringing in the groceries:

  • Talk to your child about what you are doing while putting groceries away. This is a great opportunity for your child to practice following directions and to learn food and action vocabulary.
    • “Carry the bag”
    • “Beans! Put the beans in” (while putting a can of beans in the cabinet)
    • “Apples! Put apples in” (while putting apples in a basket)
    • After you have exposed your child to food vocabulary, you can have him identify foods for you. Take out an apple, a banana, and a carrot. Ask your child “Can I have the apple?” He has to find the food and follow directions to give it to you. As your child learns more, you can give him more items to choose from and ask for two items. When he begins naming foods (e.g. “Nana” for “banana”) smile and encourage him. You can expand his language by telling him “Banana! You found the yellow banana!” You may be surprised by how motivating this can be! Children love to be included and help you.

Getting dressed:

  • Have your toddler request which clothes to put on first. You can give him choices to assist with language production. Showing him one item at a time, ask “Do you want PANTS? (show the pants in one hand)  or Do you want SHIRT?” (show the shirt with the other hand). Remember to hold the clothes out of your child’s reach so that he has to communicate to you by pointing or talking. Your child can pick which one to put on first. Watch what he points to and, if he points to shirt, encourage him to say “Shirt.” If your child does not repeat the word, honor his choice and say the word “shirt” for him while putting the shirt on him.
  • Once your child is more familiar with clothing vocabulary, have him find the clothing. Put a shirt, pants, and socks on the floor for him to find. Tell him, “Give me the socks,” and wait for him to find the socks and bring them to you. Remember to say the direction the same way and slowly so that your child can focus on your words. If your child prefers to be more independent, you can lay out two outfits so that he can choose which pants and shirt to put together.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Keep your language simple
  • Speak slowly
  • Talk for them instead of asking questions (e.g. “It’s a duck! Quack quack.” instead of “What is it? Do you see it?  What color is it? What does it say?” –Questions can be overwhelming, and asking too many makes your child unsure of what to answer).
  • WAIT for your child to respond
  • Accept their attempts at saying a word, such as “dah” for “dog”
  • Model the word for them & expand on what they say: “Dog!  You see a dog.”
  • Honor their choice
  • Have fun!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Meet-With-A-Speech-Pathologist

Antonia Russin

Antonia Russin

Antonia Russin is a certified speech-language pathologist (CCC-SLP) and the Branch Director at our Highland Park clinic. She has experience and passion for working with the pediatric population. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology degree from St. Xavier University. Antonia spent two years working as an Early Intervention therapist, working with children ages 0-3 years old in their home environment. She spent two and a half years working in a school district, where she worked in the Spanish bilingual early childhood program. Antonia also worked with elementary aged students who presented with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, receptive and expressive language disorders, and articulation/phonological impairments. Antonia is accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

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