Promoting Preschool Articulation Skills

Parents of preschool-aged children who are evaluated for articulation concerns are often interested in ideas for promoting or enhancing their child’s speech sound skills at home.   The following are some ideas for stimulating articulation or speech sound development during everyday activities at home:

  • Remember that your child may not produce all speech sounds correctly as a preschooler and that is OK!  Normal articulation development continues beyond the preschool years into the early elementary grades.
  • Model good speech for your child using an understandable rate of speech and audible level of volume. This is particularly important if your child typically uses a very fast rate or low volume which decreases their intelligibility.
  • Conversationally repeat your child’s articulation errors correctly.  For example, if your child says, “I hear the darbage truck.”, you can repeat their utterance correctly by saying, “Oh, yes! I hear the garbage truck, too!”.
  • Monitor your child’s hearing ability.  If your child frequently has colds or nasal congestion or a history of middle ear fluid or infections, they may not consistently be hearing all the sounds around them.  Seek medical attention if these concerns arise.
  • Gain your child’s attention before speaking and have your child look at you as you speak.  Your child can pick up important cues about the way you use your lips, teeth, tongue, etc. to produce speech sounds as they watch you speak.
  • Get down to your child’s level as you speak rather than always speaking from above so your child can hear and see your speech productions more easily.
  • Avoid using “baby talk” with your child.  You can use mature forms of words with preschoolers such as “Santa Claus”  instead of “Ho-Ho”, for example.
  • If you cannot understand your child’s full utterance, repeat back to them conversationally the part that was intelligible.  If your child says, “My brother’s coming down the dreet.”, you can respond “Oh, your brother’s coming down the …?” with a rising intonation or “Your brother’s coming down the what?”.  This way, your child can attempt to fill in the misunderstood word and also realize that most of their message was successful. 
  • Minimize background noise and distractions when speaking with your child.  Turn off the TV or stereo which may create extraneous noise that makes it more difficult for your child to be understood.
  • Try to use the context or situation in which your child is relating ideas to you to help you fill in words or meaning which may be hard to understand in their utterance.

Additional Resources:

  1. Apel, Kenn and Masterson, Julie J.  Beyond Baby Talk: From Sounds to Sentences – A Parent’s Complete Guide to Language Development.  Roseville, CA:  Prima Publishing, 2001.

2.  – official website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

By Jennifer G. Lyden, MS, CCC-SLP/L

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