Help Your Toddler Talk by Creating a Positive Speech Environment

Most parents would agree that a child’s learning environment plays an important role on his or her ability to learn. A student who studies in front of a television, eating a pile of junk food will retain less than a student who studies in a quiet room with healthy eating habits. A child with delayed speech is also affected by environment.

Although we can’t force a child to talk, we can provide an environment that is rich in speech. There are so many factors that influence a child’s environment. Today I’m going to focus on four ways to create a positive speech environment.

The 1st step to helping your toddler talk by creating a positive speech environment is to show a need for communication. As a parent, I know my need for survival or convenience can often blur my long term vision for my children. In the moment, no matter what is going on, it’s tempting to do what’s easy in that moment, rather than what’s best. If your child has limited speech, what is best is that your child communicates his or her needs and desires. One way to show a need for communication is to avoid anticipating your child’s needs to quickly. Wait for your child to gesture or speak before getting what  (s)he wants. After your child makes an attempt to communicate, respond with praise and model correct speech. For example, if your child is whining or crying for a drink, the easy way to eliminate the crying in the moment, is to quickly give your child the drink. However, the best way is to withhold a bit and say, “Do you want a drink?” or “say, ‘milk.’ ” Once the child attempts to communicate say, “Great asking!” If your child is using sign language to help communicate, be consistent. Require your child to sign before getting what (s)he or wants.

The next two ways to create a positive speech environment go hand in hand. You want to reduce frustration and encourage your child. You want your child to succeed, so encourage your child. Show that you and your child are in this together. Give your child your full attention when (s)he is talking to you. Pay attention to your own facial expressions and body language and be sure to look interested by showing enthusiasm. Be patient with your child when (s)he is trying to communicate. Do not interrupt your child or try to finish his or her sentence. As you try to reduce frustration, be sure that you give your child time to respond, without showing frustration. Remember that your child may also be feeling frustration, so you want to relieve as much pressure as possible.  Always remember to praise your child when (s)he says a sound (word or phase) correctly or even if (s)he attempts a specific sound.

The fourth way to create a positive speech environment is to lead by example. TALK! When you talk, pay attention to the way you talk. Speak one step ahead of your child’s communication level. So if your child is not yet using words to communicate, start by labeling objects. When your child begins to label, start using two-word phrases. Talk about what you’re doing, what you hear, or what you see. Also talk about what your child is doing, hearing, and seeing.

Lastly if you want to provide a positive speech environment, involve more than just yourself.  Involve your entire family, educators, and friends as you are working to improve your child’s speech. Share with them how you and your child are working to improve his or her speech. Educate them on how they can be part of your child’s speech development.

Again the 4 ways to create a positive speech environment are:
1. Show a need for communication by not anticipating all your child’s needs,
2. Reduce frustration by not showing frustration,
3. Praise your child for all of their small successes and
4. Lead by example by talking and labeling everything.

One additional speech development tip – Have FUN! You will reduce the stress in your child and enjoy yourself if you have a blast. If your toddler’s speech delay is causing frustration in your family, there are many more ways that you could help your toddler talk. For useful tips and advice please visit my website at