Speech Development During the Pandemic
Because of the pandemic, many kids that should have started preschool in the fall are now at home. While it’s a great opportunity to spend extra time with family, kids risk losing some of the language development that they get from being around their peers.
Preschools are language-rich environments which foster communication development in children during the crucial ages of three to five years. Communication skills are vital to a child’s development and are included in the goals and curriculum of all preschool programs. During this stage, children learn to develop their use of spoken language, vocabulary and concepts, ask questions, persuade and communicate with others.
Strong speech and language skills are important for school readiness and are also a precursor for reading, writing and academic success. So, what can you do to help your child develop these important skills at home until they are able to attend preschool safely?
Teach or reinforce ways to follow directions throughout the day. Get your child’s attention, make sure they are looking at you, and go over the steps you take when getting dressed, washing hands, brushing teeth or cleaning up toys. You can even create a picture or sign with the list of steps for common daily tasks. Some easy at-home practice opportunities include the following:
- Cooking and baking
- Cleaning up
- Classic games
Learning songs and rhymes
Young children love music. Singing nursery rhymes like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Wheels on the Bus” teaches them about different sounds and words.
Building vocabulary and describing objects
The more words a child is exposed to, the more words they’ll know! Keep the conversation going all day long, regardless of your activity. Tell stories. Set the stage for a story by naming a place, character(s), and activity. Encourage your child to create a story from those details and to make up adventures for each character.
For more ideas, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
When to talk to your child’s doctor
A baby who doesn’t respond to sounds or regularly vocalize should be checked by a doctor right away. But often, it’s hard for parents to know if their child is taking a bit longer to reach a speech or language milestone, or if there’s a problem.
Here are some things to watch for. Call your doctor if your child by:
- 12 months isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye
- 18 months prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate, has trouble imitating sounds or understanding simple verbal requests
- Two years can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases naturally, says only some sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs, can’t follow simple directions or has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)
- Parents and regular caregivers should understand about 50% of a child’s speech at two years and 75% of it at three years.
- By four-year-old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.
Source: Dayton Children’s | Speech development during the pandemic, https://www.childrensdayton.org/the-hub/speech-development-during-pandemic | © Dayton Children’s. Retrieved February 2022
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