Young child and parent talking

Helping your child speak clearly

Learning to speak clearly is a gradual process. Speech sounds develop over time. Some sounds take longer to develop than others. Later developing sounds like ‘r’ and ‘th’ may only be emerging when a child is about seven years of age.

As a parent you may understand your child but other people may not. It can be frustrating for a child if what they say is not understood.

Tips to help your child speak clearly

  • Accept how your child says words. React to what your child says, not to how clearly your child speaks.
  • Repeat the word back clearly, e.g., child:  “I see a tat”. Adult response: “Yes, a cat. I see a cat too”. Try this with slight emphasis on the sound your child had difficulty with.
  • If you do not understand, encourage your child to show you. Do not pretend to understand.
  • Slow down your rate of speech. This will help your child to slow their rate of speech too and can naturally improve speech clarity.
  • Keep your interactions positive to build your child’s confidence.
  • Try not to ask your child to “say it properly”, he/she may not be able to do this.
  • Try not to make your child repeat a word over and over again.
  • Do not let your child talk with a dummy in his/her mouth.

Activities to help improve your child’s speech

During these activities make it as easy as you can for your child to listen. Remove distractions, turn the TV or other devices off.

Create opportunities in daily routines

In daily routines, repeat words back clearly to allow your child to hear the words said correctly.

Laundry: When doing laundry together, take turns to name the clothes as you put them into the washing machine. Child may say: “Dumper” (their attempt at the word, jumper). Adult response: “Jumper, yes jumper. Daddy’s jumper”.
At bath time: Talk about what you are doing. Child may say: “Was” (their attempt at the word, wash). Adult response: “Wash, wash hair”
When shopping: Play the game of naming items as they are placed into the basket.

Book time together

Point to and name the pictures.  Repeat the words that your child says back clearly, e.g., child: “It’s a tow”. Adult response: “Cow, yes, it’s a cow. A big cow”.

Picture games

Play snap and name the pictures as you put them down.
Play picture pair games together. This offers many opportunities for naming and repeating words.

Songs and rhymes

Use songs and rhymes with your child. Introducing your child to rhythm and rhyme from an early age is great preparation for clear speech. It can also help with reading and writing.

  • Sing rhymes together and do the actions
  • Leave out the last rhyming word. Encourage your child to finish the rhyme
  • Clap, stamp or march in time with the rhyme so that your child hears the rhythm
  • Read rhyming books with your child

Syllable games

Together with your child try clapping out the syllables or beats in words, e.g., Da-ddy (two claps), el-e-phant (three claps) or ball (one clap).

Play a game of hopping or jumping out the number of syllables in words, e.g., ba-nan-a (three jumps).

Try robot talking. Use your robot voice, say what you see but break the word into smaller chunks, e.g., “round-a-bout”, “mo-tor-bike”. Encourage your child to guess the word you said in your robot voice.

This short video from RISE NI describes, modelling, a strategy to help with speech and also language.

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