Some kiddos are little parrots from the start and repeat everything their parents say. It’s really interesting to know now, because when I look at Ford when he’s babbling I can already tell he’s making certain shapes with his mouth that Drake didn’t make when he was that little. Anyways – Drake was more of the “point and grunt” type of guy. I honestly can’t blame him. He was able to get his point across and Nate and I spoke his language, haha. But we were lucky if we got a few sounds out of him here and there.
When his pediatrician recommended he be assessed for a speech delay, we jumped at the opportunity! I remember her saying, “You’re about to have a baby. You’re not going to want to deal with a crabby toddler who is frustrated because he can’t tell you what he wants.” He’s been with a great therapist since February and has come such a long way. He’s now attempting almost every word we encourage him to say and has found confidence in using his voice. Before we know it, he’s going to start putting his words into phrases and then I’ll need to go buy earplugs. 🙂
While we were waiting to be paired with a therapist, I started searching for things I could do with him. I was particularly looking for examples of how I could use the toys we already had in our home to encourage him to start to use his sweet little voice. Over the last few months, I have learned so much from Drake’s speech therapist (and my knowledgeable and talented OT mom). The following ten toys/activities have helped to bring out the “chatty” in our toddler.
- Little People Farm – great to start out with animal sounds. Now we name the animals, feed the animals, etc.
- Balls – perfect opportunity to practice turn-taking and sound play.
- Cars – great for quick phrases and sound play. “Go, go, car!” “VROOM VROOM”
- Stuffed animals – practice everyday activities with stuffed animals to work on words and phrases: eat, sleep, wash.
- Figurines & Toy Furniture – our son has a Daniel Tiger family set that he loves to play with. I pulled out my old dollhouse furniture and he loves to have them do everything things – go to bed, wash their hands, sit on the chair, put the baby in the crib, etc.
- Puzzles – almost all of ours are from HomeGoods. So good for sound play and matching.
- Play food & kitchenware – There are awesome play food options out there (great Melissa & Doug finds at HomeGoods and on Amazon), but we found ours at IKEA for $8. These toys are awesome for age-appropriate toddler skills – cooking, stirring, cleaning the dishes, etc.
- Bubbles – Great for word play and the opportunity to ask for MORE.
- Puppets – We found one for $6 from IKEA. We use this puppet for sound play. Drake also loves to feed the puppet, which is where the play food comes in.
- YouTube Videos & Songs – Busy Beavers in particular. The graphics aren’t my favorite, but the content is so educational and repetitive.
Other things we keep in mind:
- Repeat and expand: when our son says a word, we repeat it and expand on it. For example, if he says, “car,” we would add on, “fast car.”
- Choice making: every therapist will have you do this!
- Develop routines: he now anticipates part of the “routine” and is more encouraged to use his voice. This happens with many things, but one common example is when we read Jack & the Beanstalk – he anticipates the giant’s “FEE-FI-FO-FUM” part and is always ready to chime in.
I cannot stress how helpful it has been for me to see a therapist work with Drake. They model ways you can play with your babe and incorporate therapy into whatever you’re doing without needing to think too much about it. Seeing his progress has brought Nate and I so much joy. It brings me back to teaching — that feeling of excitement you share with your student when they finally understand something they’ve been working on for a while. It is so rewarding and exciting for everyone involved.
Here’s to more playing, more talking, and more celebrations. 🙂