Language Tips for Parents


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Speech and Language Ideas for Parents to try at Home

Last week, I was asked by a parent for suggestions on how to get her toddler using the words that she already knows. For example, your little one runs to the refrigerator points at it and whines, or even screams (ouch), to tell you that they want milk. You let out a big sigh because you know that they have the word for “milk” but they aren’t using it and your head now hurts. Sound familiar? Most parents, who have toddlers, even those who love to talk, have had this scenario happen to them occasionally. That is mostly due to the fact that pointing and whining/screaming is a form of communication and it works! I have listed a few suggestions below that I often use in therapy, to encourage your toddler to use the words that they already have in their vocabulary.

  • Withholding an item: If your child knows the word, then try holding back the item until they use the word. You can also cue them by saying “use your words”. If this does not work, then try adding “say (item)” to get the child to repeat you.


  • Placing an item that your child has a name for, up high where they can see it, but out of reach: When your child points the item you can then encourage them by saying “use your words” or have them repeat you with “say (item)”.


  • If your child knows a word in a familiar story book, then pause before you read this word. This will give your child a chance to jump into the story with you.


  • Provide your child with a verbal choice: if your child knows how to say the word “milk” then you would say “Do you want milk or water?”. If your child then points to the desired item, then you can add “say milk” and then hand the item to them.


  • Sing favorite songs and pause before a word that your child knows: A good example of this is singing Head, shoulders, knees and toes. If your child can say “eyes” then pause before your say this word to see if they will join into your song.


  • Practice saying “go” if your child knows this word. Playing with cars or having races and saying “ready set go”: Once again you can pause before you say “go” to see if your child will help start the race.


  • Practice saying “more” during preferred activity: The easiest activity to choose is a favorite snack. Instead of giving your child the entire snack, withhold some of the food and try and have them request “more” to get more snacks handed to them. Try and do five trials during each snack session to encourage this word to be used.


Also remember, there may be other reasons that your child is not talking or using their words. If your child is 18 months old and does not yet have any words then consider asking your pediatrician if a referral could be made to see a speech therapist.

*If you are concerned your child may have a speech or language problem you then consider reading the information provided on the ASHA website regarding speech and language development.
By: Nicole Allen, M.S., CCC-SLP



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