Speech and language tips and scripts

You can encourage the development of your child's speech and language starting from birth. Check out our tips for information specific to your child's age and developmental level then read our example scripts for how to use these techniques and words:
Newborn (birth - 6 weeks)
Developmental Stage: A newborn prefers human faces and voices to other objects and sounds.

Tips Scripts
Speak in a calm and soothing voice. Your baby will turn to your voice and look for your face and mouth. Your baby will be attentive when you speak gently. He is learning to recognize the rhythm of speech. Hold your baby in a comfortable position where you can both look at each other easily. "Hi, [baby's name]. Was that a nice nap that you took?" Wait a few seconds as though to give your child a chance to respond. "Yes, that was a nice nap, wasn't it? What would you like to do now? Should we go outside for a walk?"

Infant (6 weeks - 18 months)
Developmental Stage: Your infant is beginning to make sounds of her own. As she gets older, she begins to point and gesture. She learns speech by observing and listening to speakers in her environment.

Tips Scripts
Imitate your infant's sounds such as cooing and babbling to encourage her to repeat the sounds again. Repeat this rhythm of cooing/babbling back and forth with your infant. This reinforces and models speech rhythms and behavior. Your infant coos, "Ba-baba. Oohh." Using the same tone, you mimic "Ba-baba. Oohh."
Respond to your infant's gestures. Follow her eyes and attempt to interpret what she means. If your child says "Ugh, ugh" while looking at the toy box, say "You're looking at your toys. Do you want to play?"

Toddler (18 months - 3 years)
Developmental Stage: Your toddler points, gestures, and uses words to communicate. Your toddler is learning receptive speech (understanding what you say) and is getting better with expressive speech (being able to talk). He recognizes that specific sounds (words) represent specific objects or actions. He is eager to learn to speak. He begins to practice words and phrases, sometimes on his own in his crib.

Tips Scripts
Correct pronunciation in a neutral manner. This gives your toddler the message that you understand what he is saying and that you expect his speech to be clearer. Do not pressure your child to immediately repeat the word back to you. If your child says a word unclearly such as "wawa" for "water," repeat the word correctly: "Oh, you want some water."
Try to figure out and respond to what your child is trying to say or express. If you can't understand what your child is saying but she tugs at your sleeve and heads towards the refrigerator, she may be hungry. Ask, "Are you hungry?"
Label objects seen in the environment, or in books. Encourage your child to repeat the name of objects. Remember to praise correct responses and encourage attempts. Point to a picture of a boat. "This is a boat. Look at the picture of the boat. Can you say boat?" "Boat." "Good job"
When your child says something, expand on it. If your child says "Milk?" say, "Do, you want milk? Here's a cup of milk."
Expose your toddler to a wide variety of environments (supermarket, playground, library, mall, zoo, aquarium) and talk about what you see using simple language. Reinforce any new vocabulary by looking at books or pictures. When at the supermarket: "Let's get some fruit. Here's an apple. See the big red apple? Let's put four apples into our bag. One apple…two apples…three apples…four apples! Let's put our bag into our shopping cart. What else should we get? How about some bananas? These bananas are yellow. Smell the yellow bananas."
Narrate activities and events to your child. Describe what you are doing while you are doing it and make comments. "Let's take off your socks. You have two socks. Your socks are red. Look, here are your feet! Two feet - one…two! Now, let's take off your pants. Your pants are red. Look, here are your legs. Two legs - one…two! Let's take off your shirt…"
Talk about simple concepts (up and down, big and little, in and out). As you and your child are reading "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", introduce concepts of big and little. Say, "the mama bear is big. the papa bear is big too, and the baby bear is little!"
Talk about colors, textures, sounds, and smells in the environment. Talk about colors, textures, sounds, and smells in the environment.
If your child stutters or stammers, give him time and do not push or let him feel pushed. Child: "I waaaa it."Parent: "I waaaant it."Child: "I want it."Parent: "Yes, I want it."
Pay attention when your toddler tries to talk to you. Your interest rewards her for attempts at speech and motivates her to continue trying. When your child tries to communicate, stop what you are doing, use eye contact and sit next to your child. This shows her that you care about

Preschooler (3 years - entering school)
Developmental Stage: Your toddler/preschooler is speaking in short sentences. She is beginning to learn concepts such as the use of pronouns (you, me, he, she) and can answer questions like "What's that?" People familiar with your child can largely understand what she is saying in context. She can begin to describe an event or tell a simple story.

Tips Scripts
Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. "What are you playing?" "What did you do in school today?"
Ask your child questions. "Do you want your snack now? What do you want?"
Ask for more information. "What book did you read? Tell me what happened in the book."
Gently correct grammatical errors without criticizing. Child: "He go-ed to the store."Parent: "He went to the store?"
Describe what you see in more detail, using adjectives. Child: "I want my hat."Parent: "Which color hat do you want?"Child: "I want my hat with the stripes."Parent: "You want your hat with the red and blue stripes. See, red stripe…blue stripe…red and blue stripes."
Start using more complicated sentences. "We will go to the store and buy some oranges."

All Ages

Tips Scripts
Read books aloud to your child (See our section on Reading Tips for Parents for additional ideas). Point out and name items in the pictures. Explain what is going on or ask your child to explain what is going on.
Use gestures along with your words to make them more understandable. Put hands close together when you say "little" and wide apart when you say "big."
Read simple rhyming books. Let your child finish the final word of each rhyme. "Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a big _____"
Give your child a chance to speak. Try not to act as a mindreader and speak for your child. Instead let your child express himself. Let your child ask for his favorite blue shirt to wear to school rather than just laying his outfit on the bed for him.
Use each word in several ways. "Look at the airplane. The airplane is up in the sky. The airplane is flying."
Do chores together and narrate each step. "Now I am washing the dishes. See the water coming out of the faucet. Do you hear it splashing? The water is making everything wet. Then I add soap. The soap makes lots of bubbles."
Find a playgroup of children with language a little better than your child's. Your child's speech can improve by interacting with peers in social settings. When at the park, encourage games that use spoken language and comprehension (e.g., Mother may I?)
Avoid baby talk and use full sentences in conversations. Use the full names of things to identify them (e.g., juice, milk, apple, table).
Sing songs. Repetition will help your child's vocabulary grow. "Miss Mary Mack---all dressed in black---has silver buttons--- all down her back."
Play games like "I Spy" or "20 Questions" that encourage linking words to objects. Make sure you take turns picking the object and guessing the object. Parent: While in the car, say, "I spy a big red…"Child: "Truck!"
Support your child's efforts to communicate. Do not pressure him. Respond with correct pronunciation of words but do not make him repeat it correctly on the spot. Child: "Look mommy, I put on pants."Parent: "I put on my pants."
Speak directly to your child and allow her plenty of time for her to respond or speak back. Parent: "What do you want to eat for your snack?"Child: "I want an apple."
Speak simply, slowly and distinctly. "Let's...ride...your...bike...to...the…park!"

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