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Parent's Guide to Speech and Language Development at Home!

Tips for improving your child's speech and language skills (and more) at home:

Language Development

As parents, whether or not we are trained speech pathologists, we want to do as much as possible to enhance our children's learning. One of the simplest things to do is to talk to your child about everything! Comment aloud when you’re doing everyday activities such as grocery shopping, cooking, doing yard work, or going to the gas station.  

Actively listen to your child. If and when she is talking, look for ways to expand her language. For example, if your child says, “Truck go”, respond with a statement like, “Yes, the truck goes. It goes in the garage.”

Read with your child every day. Reading naturally teaches new concepts and vocabulary, and fortunately, print is everywhere. Read to your child from the words on cereal boxes, magazine articles and street signs. Let your child choose a book and read it together, focusing on what is happening in the story. Have your child “read” the book to you. It’s okay to focus on your child's favorite book repeatedly. A list of good children's literature can be found at Teachersfirst: 100 Best Books.

Play interactive board games. Go Fish, Memory, or Cranium are great. These games incorporate the opportunity to learn and follow rules, take turns. Both skills are essential for good communication and social skills. 

Play dress up and role play. Pretend to be workers at the hospital, grocery store, shopping, restaurant, or school. This promotes vocabulary development, social skills, and communicating with others (and stimulates the imagination).

Classify objects. Let your child sort the silverware or clean out and organize your “junk drawer”, help with laundry by sorting and matching socks.  Classifying objects by color, size, what it does, or any comparison teaches vocabulary and concepts. 

Provide new experiences for your child. Go on family field trips to city, regional or national parks. Visit aquariums and discuss what you both are seeing. Take a "nature walk" around your neighborhood and collect sticks, rocks and other treasures to make a nature-collage. Cook with your child, and let him help with the dishes. Do science experiments. Try anything NOT technology-based. Talk about what you and your child are feeling and experiencing. Comment on it and engage her for an opinion on what’s happening. Remember, it’s okay to "get messy" with your hands and to talk about feelings from your heart.

Speech Development:

Model good speech for your child. When he makes an error, repeat what he has said with the correct sound using a natural voice and rhythm. Make conversation about the message rather than the correct production.

Expect errors. Each speech sound "comes in" at different developmental ages and stages, meaning there are speech "errors" that are to be expected for children based on their ages. That being said, all speech sounds should be correctly produced by eight years of age.

Get additional information on speech and language development from these articles: Fun Speech Therapy Articulation Activities for Children from Home.

Early Reading Skills:

Talk, read, and play to develop oral language and vocabulary skills. It is much easier for a child to read a word in print if she has the word already stored in her oral vocabulary.

Develop phonological awareness skills:

  • Promote rhyming words and alliteration by singing songs (use of similar consonants) or reading books. 
  • Identify rhymes and words that start/end with the same sounds
  • Segment words into smaller units, such as syllables and sounds, by counting them
  • Blend separated sounds into words
  • Manipulate sounds in words by adding, deleting, or substituting.  Songs such as the Name Game aka the Banana Song (Katie, Katie, Bo-batie),  Down By the Bay, or Apples and Bananas are great.

Help your child “sound out” words in both their reading and writing. Phonemic awareness and phonics are two of the pillars of reading. Without understanding the connection between sounds and letters a child cannot read. In addition, when a child struggles to decode words, it decreases their comprehension of the text.  

Help your child pick letters that approximate the spelling of words when writing.  If an older child has an understanding of some of the unique variations of phonetic rules, such as silent “e”, you can encourage him to use that knowledge to come up with the correct spelling. However, don't focus so much on spelling that your child is unable to express his thoughts.

Model or guide her in sounding out the word using knowledge of phonemes or sound “chunks”.

More tips can be found, here: and Phonological Awareness.

Middle and High School Readers:

In the younger grades, children read storybooks with lots of pictures and straightforward information. In the upper grades, students read "expository" text from which they are expected to extrapolate and learn new information and concepts. For example, the word "titration" is used in chemistry, but it's highly unlikely to be used in everyday conversation around the dinner table unless someone in your family is a chemist. It's one of the words you have to learn from reading and classroom instruction.

Encourage your child to read daily, whether it is a book, magazine, or graphic novel.

Help your child highlight important words when reading expository material. If it's a book that belongs to the school, copy the portion he needs to read and highlight that.

Read the introduction to a textbook chapter and the summary before the main body of the text. This should give an idea of what the chapter is going to be about.

Make sure your student reads the title, headings, and captions of the pictures.

Here are some great reading resources for parents: Teachersfirst: Reading Tips and Teachersfirst: 100 Best Books 


Be positive about math!

Count aloud with your younger child. Count forward and backward, or skip count by 2's, 3's, 5's, and 10's.

Let your student know that math is a part of things we do every day such as cooking, figuring out time to be somewhere, getting change from making purchases at the store, making a budget, and calculating the days until someone's special birthday or holiday.

Know your math facts. Check out Fact Monster's math page for free flashcards.

Solve problems using real-world math.

Provide quiet time for your child to do math homework.

Encourage your child to seek additional help at school.

Play games that build number sense.

Draw pictures and label shapes.

Develop repeating patterns with blocks, counters, or pictures. You can create simple patterns such as ABAB (red, blue, red, blue) and make them more complex as your child progresses.

Manipulate recipes by changing the number of services.  For example, use a recipe that yields four servings and make it for eight.

Check out the pamphlet Helping Your Child with Math developed by the US Department of Education or visit the Ontario Ministry of Education's website for more useful tips.

Questions about Common Core Standards? See Common Core State Standard Initiative.

In conclusion, language acquisition, speech development, reading skills and math can all be developed at home with the assistance and care of a knowledgeable parent. If you found these tips to be helpful, please feel free to share this article.


JoAnn Ridge, Director, Ridge Zeller Therapy


To request more information about speech and language development tips at home, or to reserve therapy services for your child, please fill out the form below or call us at 480-365-9981, today!

 Fun Learning Links

PBS Kids

IXL Math




Cool Math

Fun Brain

AAA Math

Fact Monster

Figure This

Language Arts: Read It!

Primary Games


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