Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #6!

It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Here's Tip #6 (you can find Tip #5 here):

Create play routines.  This naturally flows when you are being your child's plaything.  You can do this with fun songs, finger plays or favorite activities of baby.  Play routines are simply predictable play exchanges.  These are things you are doing over and over and over again in the same manner to allow your baby to begin to predict and anticipate your next action based on previous exchanges. I know what your thinking.  Can I create a play routine with a baby?  Yes, you can do this with very young babies as well as children of any age as long as you being by following baby's lead and performing actions that are highly motivating and repeated in a predictable manner.  Examples might be:  giving "high fives", playing peek-a-book, pat-a-cake, hide and seek, "How big is baby?...So big!", etc.

Tip:  With babies, keeping play routines simple with few or no other toys can aid in improving the baby's attention to you as his/her communication partner in this play.  Also keeping play routines vocally simply by adding only one or two words repeatedly helps baby to focus on routine specific vocabulary.

Side note: Do you need more ideas for play routines?  Check out the book My Toddler Talks, by Kimberly Scanlon.  It is chock full of great ideas for play routines.

So how does a play routine help my infant to talk?  Well play routines can 1) improve understanding (we SLPs call this "receptive vocabulary") for simple words you repeatedly use in play, 2) encourage spontaneous vocalizations from your baby during play (I'll explain how to do this below), and 3) encourage imitations or close approximations of simple words used.

Tip: I encourage spontaneous vocalizations during play routines with these three simple steps: 1) find and participate in a play routine your baby enjoys, 2) use no more than 2 words repeatedly (e.g. "peek-a-boo" I use only "boo", Up/down on lap I use "uuuUUUUP" and "DDDdddooowwn"), 3) after you notice your baby is anticipating your next action, begin to pause until baby makes a sound, then immediately reinforce that sound by performing that action.  Over time the spontaneous vocalizations will become structured and repeated and shaped more closely to the sounds in the words you are using for your play routine.

Why does it work?  Creating these simple but predictable play routines, provides a structured exchange for your baby.  This exchange, although done in a playful manner, imitates a conversational exchange, and can easily facilitate vocalizations and speech production as explained above.  Remember, children learn first through play so make it fun!

Check out Tip #7 here!

Happy talking and playing!
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