Before First Words: Using Fun Sounds to Encourage Toddler Communication
Let’s make some noise. Funny sounds, animal sounds, or even complete nonsense like, “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.”
For toddlers who aren’t yet talking or using words consistently, I usually start with getting them to make some sounds. Then, I get them to make these sounds consistently. I want them to use these sounds intentionally, volitionally, in multiple settings, and with multiple communication partners.
Photo Credit: sheldon frazier
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I touched upon this in my post – 8 Ways to Get Your Toddler to Communicate.
Now, I’m going to elaborate on how to use sounds to encourage your toddler’s communication.
What do I mean by sounds?
Why don’t you try to figure it out with my, “Sound Challenge”.
Take 60 seconds and come up with a list of any sounds (particularly funny ones) that your toddler may hear on a daily basis.
…..60 Seconds later….
Here are some sounds that may have made your list:
- Brrrr (it’s cold)
- Mwah (kissing sound)
- Cock a doodle doo!
- Woof Woof
- Choo Choo
- Ahhha (an audible yawn)
So, how do I use these sounds?
First, I pick 1, 2, or 3 sounds (all depends on the child) then bombard the child with ‘em. I strategically incorporate them into a play routine, a daily routine, or when reading books together, provided it’s appropriate, of course.
Next, I build up a play routine so the child knows he has to say or attempt to say the sound at a certain point during the routine.
Photo Credit: eldelinux
For instance, if we’re doing the Trains play routine, pages 67 & 68, of My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development,we’ll get into the flow of the trains going around the track, first slowly and then faster (the train’s picking up steam, folks!) while saying “Chugga chugga chugga choo choo” (or, just “Chugga Chugga” or “Choo Choo”) Then, once the train is moving quickly, it may accidentally fall off the track, eliciting an “Oops” or “Uh-oh”.
What if you try to do these things and they’re still not working?
- Start with a sound that your child is already doing and get him to do it more and more. If your child only says “uh” for “up”, then, incorporate it into a play routine where he has to say “Uh” or “Up” on command. There are many ways to encourage the final “p” (a speech language pathologist can help you). One way I like to encourage it is to put another word that starts with “p” in the initial position following the final “p” word. So, if Tiffany is only saying “uh” for “up” then I model “Up, please” or if we’re playing with the trains I may encourage “Up, Percy”.
- Also, make sure you’re giving your child enough time and providing enough repetitions of the modeled response. Children need a lot of repetition and practice.
- You can also start with targeting early vowel sounds like:
- “Uh”, “ah”, “ee”, “oo” , and “oh” (notice I have these on my sound list)
- Fellow speech language pathologist and app creator, Heidi Hanks from Mommy Speech Therapy wrote a very helpful post on how to Teach Vowel Sounds. Click here to read it.
- Pair the sound with a gesture or gross motor movement (large body movement). In the case of “No!” encourage the child to adamantly shake his head.
- Lastly, when in doubt make sure you and your child are still having fun. Language learning should be fun.
For more Trouble Shooting Tips see pages 15 & 16 of My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development.
As always, I hope this has been helpful.
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