Encouraging Speech

When you hear your little one talk for the first time, it is sure to be an exciting milestone! And things will only get better as your child begins to amass more vocabulary and conversational skills. Language skills are essential for child development: not only do these skills allow your child to understand others, but they also allow him to communicate his own needs and feelings. Here are some language skills that your child will soon develop and some tips on how you can encourage speech in your child.

What To Expect when it Comes to Speech and Language Development

When it comes to your preschooler’s use of language, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly what you should be looking for. By the time he has reached a certain age, your preschooler should have developed particular language skills. You can help to ensure that your child is progressing normally by keeping an eye out for some of the following language milestones:

Age Three
Most parents notice a huge difference in the speech of their little one between the ages of two and three. In particular, you will probably begin to notice that your child’s speech has become much more sophisticated. Not only will his grammar have improved, but he will also have an increased vocabulary of about 300 words. Additionally, your three year old will:

  • understand between 900 and 1000 words
  • be able to continue sustained conversations
  • adjust vocabulary and tone to the person whom he is speaking with
  • be able to say his first and last name
  • use pronouns (I, me, you) correctly
  • create three-word sentences and answer simple questions

Age Four
By age four, your little one’s speech will have grown by leaps and bounds. You will notice that your daughter has a much expanded vocabulary, and she will be able to understand between 1200 and 1500 words. Additionally, she will:

  • be able to name common animals
  • be able to use at least four prepositions (at, on, in, under)
  • pronounce most vowels, dipthongs, and consonants correctly
  • repeat words and sounds constantly

Age Five
By age five, your son or daughter will have greatly improved speech and language skills. He will be able to use numerous descriptive words in his conversations and will understand concepts of time (including the past, present, and future). Additonally, he will:

  • use all vowels and consonants
  • speak in sentences with four or more words
  • use grammatically-correct sentences

Encouraging Your Child’s Speech

No matter what your child’s age or level of speech, it is important to take the time to encourage her to develop a variety of language skills. Children learn language by listening to others and modeling what they say. For this reason, it is important that you take a very active role in helping your child to develop necessary language skills. Here are some great ways for you to help your child’s speech development!

Encourage Your Child To Talk With Adults
Your child will learn new vocabulary, intonation, and proper grammar from the adults around him. For this reason, it is important to encourage your child to talk with you, his grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers. You can help to increase your child’s language by:

  • Reading: Reading is a great way for your child to pick up new vocabulary and expressions. As you read aloud to you child, speak slowly and in an expressive tone. Ask lots of questions while you read, encouraging your child to point to pictures on the page.
  • Memorizing: Children love to listen to and repeat rhymes and songs. Encourage your child to learn or memorize his favorite tune. This will encourage speech and vocabulary!
  • Exploring: Children who are particularly active will love going outside for activities and exploration games. During these games, encourage your child to name the animals, objects, or colors that she sees. As you explore with him, describe what you see using simple sentences that your child can understand.

Encourage Your Child To Talk With Other Children
Research has shown that children who regularly speak with other kids their own age have more creative and dynamic language skills. This is because children can speak to one another in a simple and direct manner that they can all understand. Encourage speech between children by:

  • organizing play dates
  • enrolling your child in organized preschool
  • encouraging your child to read and interact with siblings

Warning Signs of a Speech Problem

More than 10% of all children encounter some type of speech problem when they are growing up. More than half of these children overcome these language development problems in short periods of time. However, sometimes certain medical or developmental problems are behind these speech delays and require speech therapy. A speech problem can indicate:

  • hearing difficulties
  • developmental problems
  • speech processing problems
  • structural problems (such as cleft lip or palate)

You may want to take your child to see a speech pathologist if you are noticing any of the following problems:

By Age 3-4:

  • Can’t say vowels
  • omits consonants
  • avoids eye contact while speaking
  • can’t say two or three-word phrases

By Age 4-5:

  • makes frequent errors naming things
  • has difficulty telling a story
  • has trouble following directions
  • can’t be understood by those outside the family