• Speech
    • Remember that your preschooler may not produce all speech sounds correctly and know that, oftentimes, that's okay! Many speech sounds are considered "later-developing" (e.g., /r/, /s/, /l/, "th", etc.) and often are not mastered by children until well into elementary school.
    • Once you know what speech sounds your child is currently working on (refer to your child's most recent IEP or ask his/her SLP), you can help practice these at home in a variety of ways. Some fun ideas include:
      • Sound Scavenger Hunt -- Use flashcards aimed at your child's target sound(s) (*see Home Practice Materials link of this website for printable pictures/cards) and hide them throughout the house. Your child can then use a flashlight and a bucket to collect all the cards he/she can find, focusing on correct articulation as each card is put in the bucket.
      • Mystery Grab Bag -- Collect a variety of household items that contain your child's target speech sound(s) (e.g., for the sp- sound: spoon, spinner, toy spider, sponge, spatula, etc.; for the /k/ sound: cookie (real or toy), cake (real or toy), comb, key, lock, book, etc.) and place them inside a large box or bag. Have your child reach into the bag and feel for an object; see if your child can guess what each object is without looking!
      • Mystery Card Reveal -- Cover a speech sound picture/flashcard with a blanket/tissue/etc. and slowly draw the blanket back bit by bit while your child guesses what may be depicted.
      • Speech Sound Memory card game -- played the same way as the traditional children's Memory game but with flashcards aimed at your child's target speech sound(s).
      • Speech Sound Bowling -- Place a card under each toy bowling pin (or coffee can/plastic bottle/etc). Take turns bowling and saying the target word under the pin or pins knocked down.
      • Bean Bag Toss -- Lay speech cards out on the floor. Take turns tossing a bean bag and saying each target word as it is "hit" and turned over -- can also be done in TicTacToe pattern or fashion.
      • On The Wall -- Tape target sound cards up on a wall/cabinet in a grid format. Take turns throwing a bean bag at the grid and saying each word as it is "hit."
    • Conversationally repeat back your child's speech sound errors, modeling correct articulation of the sounds in error. For example, if you hear your child say, "that pider was so big!", you could respond by saying, "You're right, that spider was huge!", adding a little emphasis to the correct sp- start to the word "spider."
    •  Whenever possible, try to secure your child's attention and have him/her look at your face when you're speaking. Even without their being explicitly directed to do so, children can often pick up a variety of important indirect cues about how you use your mouth to produce various speech sounds just from natural conversational contexts.
    • Use time at the grocery store to work on receptive/expressive vocabulary skills. Give your child a clue about an item on your list, steer him/her in the right direction, and see if he/she can figure out which item you've described (e.g., we need to get something that's a piece of fruit, is red, and is round). You can also work on categorizing/classifying skills -- "divide" your shopping cart into different sections (e.g., fruits/vegetables/meat, hot/cold/room temperature, green/yellow/red, etc.). As you move through the store and complete your shopping, see if your child can help determine which "section" each item should be added to.
    • Choose certain parts of your day to use "self-talk" when interacting with your child. By talking out loud about what you're doing as you're loading the dishwasher (e.g., "Wow, this cup is really dirty, I'm going to need a lot of soap for this one... I'm going to put this bowl on the bottom shelf because it's really heavy... this water is really hot, I need to make it a little bit cooler", etc.), making lunches for the next day (e.g., "your sister really loves turkey sandwiches so let's make a big one for her... uh oh, I forgot to buy juice boxes for you guys, we'll have to use water bottles instead tomorrow", making weekend plans, etc., you help your child hear the language that's commonly associated with various activities/routines. This not only helps develop receptive/expressive vocabulary skills, it also provides your child with models of correct grammar, word order, etc.
    • Expand upon your child's utterances by rephrasing his/her utterance to involve more complex language, more advanced vocabulary, etc. For example, if your child says "daddy go work", you could respond by saying, "You're right. Daddy went to work today."
    • Read together as much as you possibly can. Let your child pick his/her favorite (even if you feel like you've had just about enough of that one!) and, when you can, try to introduce a new story here and there that may become a new favorite with time. Repetition of familiar stories helps children learn language patterns and vocabulary terms related to certain contexts/situations. Encourage your child to "read" along with you by frequently pausing to let him/her fill in familiar words/phrases or by telling you his/her own version of the story based on the pictures in the book. Joint book reading is also a great way to help your child develop basic listening skills and increase attention.
    • Use TV/DVD time to work on predicting and describing. During the show, ask your child what he/she thinks will happen next; or you can ask your child to pretend to be a character in the show and tell you a story about what's happening in the show or what will happen in the next episode.
    • Time in the car can be time to work on a variety of speech/language skills, such as labeling, direction/position concepts, wh-questions, etc. Ask your child to label different parts of the car, such as the windshield, radio, seatbelts, etc., and talk about the function of each object. You can also work on comparison terms by talking about which cars are going faster/slower, which cars look newer/older, which trucks are bigger/smaller, etc.
    • Mealtime is the perfect time to work on following directions and direction/position concepts. Depending on your child's age/skill level, you can have ask him/her help you set the table, using 1- and 2-step commands, such as "get the forks from the drawer", "first put the plates on the table and then go get the napkins", etc. Or you can focus on direction/position concepts (e.g., in, on, under, etc.) while setting the table with your child. For example, you could ask your child to place the spoons next to the plates, the forks on top of the napkins, the salad bowl in the center of the table, etc.
    • Use a slow, steady rate of speech when speaking to your child. Try to insert some extended pauses at natural breaks, such as where a period or comma would fall if the utterance were to be written down.
    • Increase the time you wait to respond to your child's comments/questions. Doing so will help reduce the overall rate of conversational exchange and will help your child feel more comfortable speaking with a reduced rate.
    • Do not "jump in" and try to complete your child's sentences for him/her when he/she is in a moment of dysfluency.
    • Try to reduce the number of questions you directly pose to your child. Instead, try making comments that serve as "lead ins" into topics (e.g., instead of asking "what did you do at school today?", you could say "Mrs. Smith's newsletter said this was the 1st week of the butterfly unit..." or "I really love the picture you made in art class today!" and then wait to see how your child responds.
    • When possible, stop what you're doing and give your child your full attention when he/she is talking to you. Also, try to reduce background noise/distractions or interruptions from others. Children often show spikes in dysfluency when they're trying to "compete" for speaking time, whether against interruptions from others, background noise from television shows, etc.
    • Try to avoid asking your child to "perform" in front of others (e.g., asking him to recite the ABCs during a neighborhood party, asking her to read her "Star of the Week" poster aloud at a family dinner, etc.
    • Tips for selecting toys to enhance your child's speech/language development (adapted from Carrie Ebert):
    • Whenever possible, select toys without batteries. Toys without batteries require children to provide their own sound effects/animal sounds/etc. If your child has a favorite toy that has batteries, you can always take them out -- you don't want the toy farm making the animal noises, you want your child providing the noises. Of course there are some exceptions and there are plenty of great toys out there that require batteries -- just don't forget about the battery-free options, as well!
    • Make sure your child has access to "basic" or "traditional" toys (e.g., wooden or cardboard blocks, Legos, play kitchen/food, trains/train tracks, Mr. Potato head, Play-Doh/cookie cutters, dress-up clothes, etc. These toys tend to be more "open-ended", meaning they don't necessarily have a defined start, middle, & end. They provide children a lot of freedom in how they choose to use such toys and often lend themselves to more creative play than board games, video games, etc.
    • Try to not worry too much about gender when selecting toys for your child. There truly should not be any "girl toys" or "boy toys" -- if your son gravitates towards baby dolls and the tea party set, go with it! If your daughter really enjoys building train tracks or playing with super heroes, encourage it! Different types of toys tend to elicit different kinds of play and skill sets (e.g., Legos/train tracks/car sets tend --> constructive, baby dolls --> imaginative, dress-up clothes --> role-play, etc.). Limiting your child to "gender-specific" toys only limits his or her exposure to different types of play and language development.
    • Make sure your child has access to "basic" or "traditional" toys (e.g., wooden or cardboard blocks, Legos, play kitchen/food, trains/train tracks, Mr. Potato head, Play-Doh/cookie cutters, dress-up clothes, etc. These toys tend to be more "open-ended", meaning they don't necessarily have a defined start, middle, & end. They provide children a lot of freedom in how they choose to use such toys and often lend themselves to more creative play than board games, video games, etc.
    • Remember that less is often more. Oftentimes, the best toys are not really "toys" at all. Examples include:
      • Old refrigerator/delivery boxes with windows & doors cut out to create a makeshift playhouse
      • Pillows and blankets fashioned into forts or backyard tents 
      • Buckets of water and paintbrushes to "paint" the house/fence/garage/etc.
      • A big bin filled with beans or rice and plastic cups, bowls, spoons, etc. 
      • Old clothes, purses, hats, neckties, shoes, etc., for dress-up activities
    Ways to Use...
    (source: Expressly Speaking)