Speech Therapy for Toddlers
Are you looking for ideas for speech therapy for toddlers? Whether you are a speech-language pathologist (or a parent), this blog post is stuffed with ideas, suggestions, and great activities to try with young children! You will find suggestions for toddler books, fun activities, language modeling strategies, and resources for SLPs.
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Speech Therapy Books for Toddlers (and Preschoolers)
Are you looking to build a great selection of books to use with toddlers and preschool students? From interactive books, repetitive books, lift the flap books, and wordless picture books, I’ve created a list of my favorite books get you started! Children’s books are an effective tool for targeting language.
It’s especially important to choose books that are interactive and fun! Here are some great book recommendations for a speech therapist to try using in therapy:
- The Big Book of Exclamations– this interactive book is a fun way to work on imitating actions, gestures, sounds, and exclamations in therapy! Bonus: It’s written by a speech language pathologist!
- Don’t Push the Button– this is SO much fun, and a great way to work on following simple directions and imitating sounds and actions.
- Five Little Monsters– this is another fun interactive book that my students enjoy
- No No Yes Yes– this book is hilarious and will provide easy opportunities to work on gesture and word imitation
- Yummy Yucky– here is another fun book from Leslie Patricelli that will have your youngest clients engaged and laughing!
- Little Blue Truck– the fun sounds and rhymes in this book, paired with engaging illustrations, make it a kid-friendly hit! Plus, it’s easy to practice animal sounds and vehicle sounds using this book!
- Bear Wants More– part of the bear series, this book has beautiful, bright illustrations and focuses on the friendship between Bear and his friends! Plus, it’s a fun way to introduce animal names.
- The Snowy Day– this classic book is absolutely magical to pull out in the winter- or any time of year!
- Full, Full, Full of Love– this comforting book shares a special day between a boy and his grandmother- and the rest of the family- as they gather for a meal
- Peek a Who– this book is quick and fun- plus, it’s a great way to work on sound imitation!
- Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? Children the lift the flaps and can learn about body parts, such as the mouth and eyes.
- Fluffy Animals (Baby Touch and Feel)– little kids will love this hands-on book!
- My First Book of Baby Signs: 40 Essential Signs to Learn and Practice– for children with language delays, introducing some basic sign language can be very beneficial!
- Where the Wild Things Are– this is an absolute classic written by Maurice Sendak, and is absolutely still popular and fun for kids today!
- There Was an Old Lady– the old lady series is always a great go-to with younger kids- and even older children, too! Plus, this book series has colorful illustrations that appeal to kids of all ages.
Speech Therapy Books for Parents
If you want to recommend a book or two to parents, I especially love recommending My Toddler Talks by Kimberly Scanlon. This book explains language modeling strategies that parents can use to encourage language development at home.
Another great recommendation for parents is Let’s Get Talking by Mehreen Kakwan. This book helps encourage the modeling of functional first words.
Speech Therapy Activities for Toddlers (and Preschoolers)
Are you looking for some fun activities to try with younger children? Typically, hands-on, interactive, and child-led activities are best! This can mean going with the flow during speech therapy sessions.
Here are a few ideas!
Put it in, take it out:
There’s really nothing more motivating for toddlers than stuffing real objects in- and taking them out- of other things. So, find a large dump truck toy, and have other small objects or vehicles nearby. Kids love putting objects in the dump truck. You’ll be able to model vehicle sounds and exclamations easily with this activity.
Toy Car Garage Play:
I love this Melissa and Doug parking garage set with wooden cars! Work on vocabulary such as ‘up’ and ‘down’, ‘fast’ or ‘slow’, or ‘in’ and ‘out’.
Pop-up tunnels are fun to crawl through. Hide real objects or pictures in the tunnel, and work on sounds, exclamations, and core vocabulary.
Feed the … activity:
You can make a “feed the monster” (or crocodile, or ANYTHING, really) activity. This will be a big hit! Buy a trash can with a flippable round lid, or even an empty Cascade box would work! Attach eyes to it, and you’re ready to go! For children with a speech delay, focus on early syllable structures such as VC (eat!) or CVC (yum!). For children with language delays, you can target core vocabulary words like ‘eat’ and ‘in’ while you feed the monster.
Little People Figurines:
Easily work on language therapy objectives using Little People Figurines! Model language using parallel talk and self talk.
Sensory bins are other forms of sensory play (such as play doh) are very important! For ideas on sensory activities and sensory play, check out the book Sensory Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Casey Patch. I often have my students engage in sensory play WHILE I am reading aloud a story to them!
Build creations and let imagination take over while modeling speech and language objectives.
How Language Is Learned
It is important to note that modeling speech and language should involve face-to-face interaction. Language acquisition is meant to happen through shared social experiences. Singing, talking, nursery rhymes, playing, and reading are all great places to start.
I do caution parents to limit screen time when possible. As a mom, I know this isn’t easy in today’s world. Research shows, however, that this is very important.
As speech therapists, know parent involvement is so important in early intervention.
Language Modeling Strategies
SLPs can explain some language modeling strategies to parents.
I explain to parents that they can simply never talk enough to their children. I tell parents to talk all day long about what their child is doing or experiencing. This is known as parallel talk.
Likewise, parents should also talk all day about what THEY are doing, seeing, hearing, and feeling. This is known as self-talk.
Other language modeling strategies can include expansion. If a child says a word, like ‘car’, the adult can repeat that and add a word (“Blue car!”)
I also encourage caregivers to use animated facial expressions. This is a fun way to elicit sound imitation. Also, it is important to help teach children to watch an adult’s mouth as words are modeled.
Speech development can also be encouraged by modeling vowels clearly. We often think of consonants, but many young children who are unintelligible or not yet speaking may be having some motor speech difficulties. SLPs might do this by modeling- “OH- Go!”
One final tip that speech therapists can give to parents is to decrease communicative pressure. As a parent, I know it can be frustrating when children don’t repeat words you’d like them to repeat. I explain the best course of action, however, is to simply model, model, model!
Resources for SLPs
Here are some resources for Speech Therapists to use when encouraging a child’s language development:
- This research article discusses the importance of gestures and early intervention.
- This article provides guidance on coaching parents with language modeling strategies.
- This ceu course, by Cari Ebert, teaches autism strategies for early intervention