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Hearing your baby’s first words is one of the most exciting milestones to witness! Around 10 to 14 months is when developmentally children typically start to say 1 to 2 words. As a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, I often work with parents who are seeking help because their child is older than this age and has not yet spoken their first words. Here are some of my top speech stimulation tips and how to incorporate into storytime with you and your child’s favorite books!

#1: Use “Parentese”

“Parentese” is a style of infant-directed speech that involves speaking at a slower rate, elongating or stretching out sounds in your words, using simple sentences, and pausing. Speaking to your baby in Parentese can improve their spoken vocabulary! Practice applying Parentese during storytime. If you have a few cute books that may be a little too “wordy” for your young one, consider skipping the words on the page and instead, use parentese to use simple words and phrases to describe the pictures. For example, “Bear” or “Hi, Bear!” while pointing to the pictures. Pausing and looking at your child can encourage them to verbally respond back!

#2: Imitate Your Child

That’s right. To encourage your child to imitate you, a great strategy is to imitate your child! If he or she makes a babbling sound such as “ma” or “ba” while reading stories with you, make the same sound back at them. Your baby will enjoy this, and it’ll encourage him or her to keep the “conversation” of vocalizing back and forth going!

#3: Give Choices

Give your child choices in what book to read (“bus or mouse book?”), who’s going to turn the page (“me or you?”), or even when naming the pictures in the book (ex: “is that a car or boat?”). Limit the number of yes/no questions you ask, and instead, give your child choices! That’ll encourage him or her to use more words.

#4: Let your Child Fill in the Blank

Read your child’s favorite books to them over and over. Whether it’s a few times in one sitting, or every night at bedtime for a week! Once he or she comes to know some of the words, pause before reading the last line during the book and wait to see if your child will fill in the blank with a word!

Try implementing these language boosting strategies during storytime and watch your baby’s language grow!

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist

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