Hearing and speech are two very important skills for children to build upon as they grow older. They help us listen and communicate with others, which leads to important developments, and there are always ways for parents to facilitate speech and language in the home with their child. There are numerous milestones that children are generally able to accomplish between certain years of their childhood. This week, we’ll focus on the milestones for children from birth to six years of age. If you feel that your child is not meeting these age-appropriate milestones, call our office for an evaluation, or speak to your child’s pediatrician for a referral for a speech therapy evaluation. For more information, you can access the website for The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Birth to Two Years:
Your child will certainly be retaining a lot of information in their first few years of life, and it’s important that you help them learn skills that are valuable to their growth! For children two and under, you will want to be encouraging the formation of sounds. You can do so by making simple sounds, like ma, ba, and, da. Younger children like to mimic the movements and noises you make, so it can often be helpful to make movements and gestures while you make sounds. Peek-a-boo is a simple, yet fun, example of doing this. When they begin to mimic your sounds, repeat them back! Have silly conversations in gibberish. You’d be surprised just how much it helps! You can also talk to your child while performing daily tasks. While doing this, you can simply explain what you’re doing, where you’re going, who you’re going to see, etc. If you are giving your child a bath, you could say “You are taking a bath! There are lots of bubbles. Look at the bubbles!” Also try pointing out everyday objects and saying what it is called, such as pointing at some of their toys and saying “ball!” or “toy!”. Repetition can make more of a statement, so be sure to repeat these words a few times whenever you say them. You can also help them make connections between words and sounds, or even pictures. Saying things such as “The dog says woof!” or showing them simple pictures in a picture book and saying the name of the object can be really helpful in establishing these connections for your child. When reading picture books, be sure that the pictures are simple and plain. Your child may easily get tired of looking at a busy picture and lose interest in what you are showing them.
2 to 4 Years:
When your child transitions into their toddler years, you’ll want to begin speaking more clearly and precisely. Your child’s speech becomes a sort of reflection of yours. You can start using more advanced words and creating simple sentences that he or she can repeat. This can include yes or no questions that they can answer, such as “Do you want juice?”. Questions that give them a choice are also helpful in creating an option for them to speak in phrases. You could ask “Do you want apple juice or orange juice?” Begin pointing out more objects and asking what they are called, as to create a better connection between the name or sounds and the visual. Singing songs is also a very good activity because it helps your child to develop a rhythm of speech. This will develop their skills to speak in clear sentences as they get older. Asking your child about familiar people and what their names are will help him or her to recall the information they have heard and repeat it back to you.
4 to 6 Years:
At this stage, your child will begin to understand more complex language. You should start incorporating new words and language skills into your conversations, such as directions (the car is on the left), opposites (up and down, quiet and loud, etc), requests (go get your jacket please), and rhyming (cat, sat, that, mat, etc). You can start asking questions or stating sentences that require your child to fill in the information or guess the answer, such as “What do we say when someone gives us a gift?”. As they have a more complex understanding of the things you are saying, they can start following 2 or 3 step requests, such as “Go to the closet and get your jacket”. You can practice communication skills in any situation, while at the grocery store or while making dinner.
Next week we will be addressing speech and language by grade level and later years, which may involve children with dyslexia, down syndrome, autism, etc. Check back for an updated post, and thanks for reading!