Ever since he was born Piglet has been a bit “behind”. He was slow to gain weight, he didn’t roll over until 9 months old, crawl until he was 1 or walk until 18 months. He was never drastically behind, not enough to cause concern, but enough that it was noticeable against his peers.
One area where I didn’t think he would struggle with was speech. He has been a constant chatterbox for over a year now…… except not in a language that many can understand. He is a great one for telling stories but can get quite upset when you don’t know what he’s said. Eventually it became clear that we were going to have to give him a hand to make his stories into real words!
Over the last 6 to 9 months we have done various things to encourage Piglet to use “real” words. It was important that the learning was fun, and so most of the activities we do probably don’t look like education from the outside – but that is what makes them so effective!
Everyone learns differently, so what worked for Piglet might not work for your toddler. But here are 5 things you can try to encourage speech development:
1. Just Talk
It might sound simple, but just talking to a child makes all the difference. You’ll be surprised how much they take in by just hearing conversation. I talk to Piglet pretty much all day. A running commentary of what I’m doing, and suggestions for what he can do to help too. I often ask him if he can say certain words throughout the day as we go about our activities, but I don’t put a huge emphasis on it or make a big deal if he doesn’t want to try.
2. Baby Signing
We introduced baby sign to Piglet from quite a young age, but from 12 months onwards we used it regularly. Simple signs that we can use every day, such as food, drink, more and please we introduced first, and then branched out in to animal signs and took it from there.
By getting Piglet to sign for what he wants, as well as saying the word (even if it doesn’t resemble the actual word) helps me to know what he wants. I am then able to understand what he wants and help him to get it, as well as telling him what the correct word is so that he might be able to use it next time.
3. Singing Songs
We sing songs every day. Multiple times in fact! I have found the repetition in songs is great for working on Piglet’s speech. At first he would just repeat the last word in each line and now he will sing particular phrases along with me.
Particular songs, like Old Macdonald or The Wheels On The Bus are proving really good at the moment. I stop and let Piglet choose what will come next. He is in control of whether we’re singing about cows or sheep (or dinosaurs!) and it has encouraged him to speak out and say what he wants.
4. Reading Books
It might sound like a bit of a cliche – but reading books really does work. At 2 years old Piglet doesn’t often sit to be told a story so I make it as interactive as possible. Sometimes I will ask him “Can you find the bird?” and wait for him to point it out to me. Other times I will point at something and ask “What is this?”. I tend to do that only with items that I know he will recognise, but I will try with new objects too to see if he has picked up any new words.
Books are also great for working on counting too. Most of Piglet’s “counting” is simply repetition still at this stage, but everyone has to start somewhere and we are working hard on this at the moment.
5. Correcting Gently
It is really cute when little ones mispronounce words, but the reality is that they will never learn if we don’t teach them the real words. I don’t tell Piglet he is wrong, I simply repeat the word back to him correctly. With new words in particular he is always praised for trying the word, even if it’s not even very close to correct. It’s all about encouragement to try and get it right, and being patient while he works it out!