Speech Child Development Parenting

Generally speaking, the manner in which any skill development is encouraged requires basically three things. First is exposure to people who have learned the skill set or mastered it. Second is the opportunity to practice the skill and have guidance from someone. Third is to find ways to expand and grow the knowledge base. Speech development is encouraged in much the same way. This article does not address the needs of children who require the assistance of a speech therapist – the focus is on a normally developing child.

Talk to your child

Babies learn to speak because they listen to their parents talk to them. As the child grows and physically develops, they begin to make sounds other than crying to express themselves. The cooing or babbling of a very young child helps them develop the ability to make a variety of sounds that eventually become words.  Additionally the response given by the parent or caregiver to these sounds encourages and guides the child.  A baby who coos and babbles with no response from anyone will, over time stop attempting to solicit a response by making these sounds.

Early Childhood Professionals advise parents to talk to their infants even though the child cannot respond verbally.  Infants listen intently and watch the faces of adults who talk to them as they go through caregiving routines.  Adults should take time pointing out objects to babies and toddlers naming the objects each time.  This builds the receptive language of the child. Developmentally a child first hears a word and learns to relate the word to an object. Then the child can find the object among a variety of objects when asked.  Finally the child begins to repeat the word that they have heard.

Listen and respond to your child’s verbal communication

Although talking with a very young child in short simple sentences is important it is also very important to take the time to listen as the child attempts to verbally communicate.  Often adults will try to anticipate what the child is trying to say and complete the word or sentence for him.  It takes patience to allow the child the time to complete the thought or idea before responding. Practice makes perfect. 

Opportunities to speak uninterrupted are a key to speech development, as with any skill the opportunity to practice is directly related to whether the skill is developed as easily as possible or not.  For instance, the process for teaching a baby to walk does not begin by placing the baby in the center of a room and telling him to sit there until he can walk across the room. Instead he is assisted in making his first steps and is often placed on the floor close to something he can use to pull up on and gain balance.  Then each step taken is met with encouragement to try again. The same type of process occurs with speech development.  As a very young child begins to coo and babble the adults around the child should acknowledge the attempts to speak in a positive manner. This regular response encourages the child to continue attempting to create sounds that become words.

As the child grows into the preschool stage, the opportunities for speech development can be increased by asking open ended questions while the child is involved in an activity such as block building. “Tell me about what you are building.” will require a more in depth response from the child than simply asking “What is that?” Many times adults do not ask questions that require more than a one or two word response. “What did you do in school today?” is often answered with one word “nothing”.  Thinking about the kind of response you are looking for can help with deciding the type of questions you ask of the child.  Taking an interest in the answer will encourage further conversation which is the practice in speech development.

Read to your child to develop vocabulary

Reading to very young children also helps to develop speech. Reading to a baby is very different from reading to a four or five year old.  Babies first enjoy the sound of your voice. Books made for babies are mainly pictures which are identified by the adult who is “reading” the book.  As the child grows, the ability to match the spoken word to the correct picture indicates development of receptive language.  Using books to develop a child’s vocabulary can expand the vocabulary beyond his immediate environment.  As the child grows, he will begin to have favorite books and will begin to want to “read” the story to the adult. This will also be an opportunity to develop his speaking skills.