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How to Encourage Speech Development in Your Toddler

Most toddlers will say their first words by the time they reach their first birthday, and many will have around 200 words in their vocabulary by the time they turn two. Having said that, speech development varies drastically from child to child. While an early intervention may be necessary to address a speech delay in some cases, most of the time kids simply develop at their own pace. If you are concerned about your toddler's speech development, here are a few ways in which to encourage progress. 

Talk, talk, talk 
As a parent, it is not necessary to ‘teach’ your toddler language. They will pick it up naturally simply by hearing you talk. Make conversation as much as you can, narrating what you are doing, asking questions, as well as responding to your child's babbling and attempts to interact with you. 
Play games 
Children of all ages learn so much through play. Luckily, there are countless games to play as a family that will help to encourage speech development. Many of these games also have a positive effect on other learning areas, such as creativity, memory, and social skills. I-Spy is a great example, as is asking your toddler to ‘read' you a book by describing the pictures to you. 
Speaking of reading, this is the single most important thing that you can do for your toddler's speech development and development in general. Studies have proven that introducing kids to books early on has a positive effect on their attitude towards learning and on the improvement and progression of their vocabulary. Turn reading into a daily routine and make sure that it is a special, quiet time that both you and your children look forward to. 
Tell stories 
Your toddler will love listening to stories that you make up as they get a bit older. Seeing as though there won’t be any pictures involved, it allows them to use their imagination and to build on their listening and concentration skills. You can ask them to return the favor and tell you a story too once their vocabulary is large enough to do so. 
Never criticize 
Avoid criticizing a child's pronunciation, or when they use a word incorrectly. Rather repeat the statement back using the correct pronunciation and word so that they can hear the correction without feeling ashamed or discouraged. Criticism may reduce your toddler's confidence and delay their speech development as a result. 
Limit screen time 
Experts recommend that kids over the age of two watch no more than two hours of television per day. Also, be selective when it comes to deciding what you allow your toddler to watch. Educational programs will obviously prove much better when it comes to aiding their speech development than simply cartoons.  

Ultimately, it is important to remember that while you can take action in order to encourage speech development, you certainly can’t force it. Every child blooms in time. Patience, love, and support are key. If ever in doubt, seek advice from a pediatrician or child psychologist.

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