How Caregivers Can Encourage Speech and Language Development
Figure 1 Image source: http://www.intelligenderblog.com
Guest Post by Jacky GilChrist
Child care providers are among a child’s first teachers. Children learn speech and language through everyday activities, interacting with their peers and adults, and listening to others speak. Observe how the children under your care interact, speak, and play. Compare the toddler’s development to that of his peer group and notify the parents if he might have a speech and language delay.
Figure 2 Image source: guardian.co.uk
What to Expect: Milestones
Every child develops at a different rate, but there are a few typical milestones for speech and language development. Alert the parents if a toddler between 12 to 18 months fails to look at a person who is speaking to him, speaks less than eight words, and cannot point to objects in a book upon request. Alert the parents if a child between 18 to 24 months cannot speak two to three word sentences, has a vocabulary of less than several hundred words, and does not sing familiar songs.
As toddlers grow, you will notice that they enjoy asking questions, repeating words and sounds, and singing favorite songs. They should also speak in short, simple, complete sentences and be able to construct simple stories about pictures in a book. While every child develops differently, it’s always best to be cautious instead of adopting the “wait and see” approach. Inform the parents that you’ve noticed that Melissa is unusually quiet for a child her age, for example, and may benefit from an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (SLP), also called a speech therapist.
Figure 3 Image source: http://www.dentondaycare.com
Create a Stimulating Environment
Create a stimulating environment for the children under your care to encourage speech and language development. This is vital for all children, whether they are developing at a typical rate or not. Fill your daycare center with engaging picture books, music for sing-alongs, and plenty of games that encourage verbal interactions. Dolls can be particularly helpful for encouraging speech because the child can have the dolls interact with each other and “talk” to each other. Encourage dramatic play with dress-up games. Encourage children to build their narration skills by having them look at pictures in a book and creating their own stories about them.
Maintain constant conversations with the children. Narrate their activities as well as your own to stimulate speech. For example, say, “Now we’re lining up to go potty. Melissa is first and Kara is next. What do we do after we finish going potty? We wash our hands!” Avoid correcting a child’s speech; instead, model correct patterns of speech. Read the following sample dialogue for an example.
Caregiver: Good morning, Melissa! Would you like to read a story today?
Melissa: Me do. Tree bears.
Caregiver: You like the story about the three bears, don’t you. Is the story about the three bears your favorite story?
Melissa: Punny bears.
Caregiver: They are. Those three bears are very funny. What kind of funny things do the three bears do?
Notice how the caregiver expands on Melissa’s speech and repeats the phrase “three bears” to help reinforce proper articulation. By providing more opportunities for verbal interactions, daycare providers can help encourage the speech and language development of children under their care.
About the Guest Blogger
Jacky Gilchrist specializes in writing about health, fitness, and medical topics. She writes a blog for Speech Buddies, a company that offers speech therapy products to parents and speech therapists, as well as a health and fitness blog for Dr. Stephen Gullo, a renowned weight loss expert.