Language-Building Opportunities


By Kelly Faulkenberry Cheek, MSP, CCC-SLP & Keri Spielvogle, MCD, CCC-SLP

Posted by Emily K. Hulse

Sing Your Way to Better Language

Sing repetitive songs to your children for a wonderful and fun activity that helps them learn about concepts, categorization, associations, sequencing, and new vocabulary.

For example,“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” teaches children about farm animals and the sounds they make. Let your children choose the animals they’d like to sing about. This helps children practice naming objects in a category and associating the different sounds with the correct animals. Change the song to “Old MacDonald Had a Zoo” to include different animals with different animal sounds (i.e., tiger, monkey, elephant, and others).

For a challenge, try singing “Old MacDonald Had a Fruit Store.” Let the children decide what objects to use and what to sing about. For example, they can sing, “And at his store, he had an apple, E-I-E-I-O. With a shiny, red peel; a shiny, red peel; here a peel, there a peel; everywhere a peel, peel.” Other good songs to sing with your children include the following: “The Wheels on the Bus,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”

I Spy Good Language Skills

Another good game to play with children is “I Spy.” This game helps develop reasoning, describing, and listening skills. Use colors, sizes, uses, or positions and ask for more descriptive words as your child’s skills progress.

Take turns giving clues and guessing the answer. For example:

“I spy something blue.”
“I spy something round.”
“I spy something you use to wash dishes.” “I spy something in the sky.”
“I spy something small, red, with a peel.”

Listen and Help

Children who are learning language often use their new language skills incorrectly. They may say the wrong word or mix up the words in their sentences. Playing games presents a great time to notice these errors and help them learn the correct way to use language. Sometimes, the best way to help them learn is by saying the sentence again, but saying it correctly. For example, if your child says, “Daddy forgetted his book,” you could respond by saying, “Yes, Daddy forgot his book.” Place emphasis on the corrected word by saying it slower and louder, but try not to obviously correct your child. Making errors like this is normal for children who are just developing their language skills. Often the best and easiest way to help your child figure out language rules is by setting a good example.


If you have any questions or concerns- contact Speech Language Pathologist, Christine Wilson, by clicking this link!

Top 10 Tips For How To Improve Communication Skills at Home

Top 10 Tips For How To Improve

Communication Skills at Home


Most of us don’t even wait for people to finish a sentence before we chime in with what we have to say. A good rule of thumb is to wait 5-10 seconds for your child to answer. It gives your child time to process what they want to say. This can also prevent or diminish stuttering in some children.


Over correcting is the exact opposite way of how to improve communication skills. The more you demand they say something right, the worse it may likely get. You don’t want to make talking and saying speech sounds a negative thing, because they just might stop doing it altogether.


This can be tricky to balance. You need to talk to them as if they are adults but still remember they are children. Talking with them like an adult doesn’t mean use adult vocabulary, jokes, or information they won’t understand. It means take turns, use eye contact, and value what they say. As for younger children, there will many times they say something you don’t understand (gibberish), but again, take your turn, make your best guess about what they are talking about and reply to them…even if you’re not sure what they’re talking about. Don’t talk to them in baby talk all the time. It’s O.K. every now and again, but after they are about 9 months old, try to limit how much you do it.


I’m not talking about being a good “role model”, although you need to be that too, I mean a good speaking model. If you want to build strong speech and language skills in your child, you need to show that you have skills yourself. A good rule of thumb for how to improve communication skills is to talk slightly above your child’s level. That way they will be stretched enough to keep building their skills.


Life is hectic, there are great shows for kids, and it gives you much needed breaks but try to have it off as much as possible. Just remember the less time you have the TV on, the less time your child will expect it to be on. This can help with behavior in the long run too. This will help your child expand their imagination, learn to entertain themselves, and consequently strengthen their language skills.


Read the back of the cereal box, people’s shirts, and signs on the street. The more exposure your child has to speech sounds and language structure, the sooner they will begin to understand it. When reading books, keep in mind you don’t have to read them word for word. Instead, simply look at the pictures and talk about what you see. For example…When reading Cinderella, you might say “Oh no she lost her shoe” or “those mice turned into horses”, etc. This accomplishes two things: Your child learns to use their imagination and Your child builds/strengthens their receptive and expressive language skills. Try to read at least one book a day.


Open ended questions are when the answer can be a variety of things and not answered by “yes” or “no”. These questions will teach your child how to think “hard” and reason for themselves.


Children need to hear sounds and words at least 100 times before they will even start trying to say it. Don’t limit how many times you say the same word.


The earlier you teach your children this concept, the better. It doesn’t mean you need to ground your 2 year old for a week, but when something happens or they do something wrong, help them understand why.


This is another one that needs to be balanced. You don’t need to tell your child how great they are talking after everything they say. For younger children: When they call something by the right name, say “Nice talking” or “You’re right that is a…” or “You are such a good talker”! For older children: You might compliment them when they use a new vocabulary word that you modeled for them. You might say, “Hey, look at you using such a big vocabulary.”

If you have any questions, contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson.


How Do We Talk?

How Do We Talk?

by Kevin Stuckey, M.Ed., CCC-SLP

How Do We Produce Speech Sounds?

Talking is a form of communication most people use to express their thoughts and feelings. But, do you ever wonder HOW we make the words come out of our mouths? Speaking begins with a person’s thought and results in the formation of words and sentences to express that thought. The act of speaking occurs by air coming from the lungs, through the vocal folds, and out of the mouth. We shape sounds using our tongue (tip, blade, front, back), upper and lower lips, upper and lower teeth, and the roof of the mouth (alveolar ridge, palate, velum) in order to say specific sounds and words. Speech sounds differ by voice, place—where sounds are made in the mouth—and manner—the type of sound.
How Do We Create Different Types of Speech Sounds?
There are many parts of the body that help us produce speech. To speak, you use your stomach muscles, lungs, voice box, tongue, teeth, lips, and even your nose. Your brain coordinates it all. Speech actually starts in the stomach with the diaphragm. This is a large muscle that helps push air from the lungs into the voice box. The voice box or larynx has vocal cords that vibrate to produce your voice. Then, the lips, tongue, and teeth form the sounds to make speech. For example, the tip of the tongue touches just behind your top teeth to make a “d” sound. By moving the tongue, changing how much air comes out, and vibrating or not vibrating the vocal cords, you can make over 40 different speech sounds. Sometimes the sounds even come out through your nose. Try putting your finger on your nose and say “mmm.” You will feel your nose vibrate!
What If My Child Has Difficulty Saying Speech Sounds?
Many children experience difficulty when attempting to produce clear and understandable speech. When children struggle with the correct production of speech sounds, it makes it difficult for listeners to understand what they are saying. Speech sound production occurs on a developmental basis according to a child’s chronological age. Some children may acquire skills more quickly than others. Mawhinney and McTeague (2004) give the following chart:
90% of Children Have Mastered These Sounds…By Age
p, d, m, w, h, n 2 years old
t, b, k, g 3 years old
f, v, y 4-5 years old
s, z, j, l, r, sh, ch, th, blends 5-7 years old
What Can I Do to Help My Child?
If you notice non-developmental articulation errors in your child’s speech—or your child shows frustration because “No one understands what I’m saying!”—consult a local speech-language pathologist (SLP) for an articulation screening/evaluation of your child’s speech production. After reviewing the results of this assessment, the SLP may recommend speech therapy to address specific errors to improve the intelligibility of spontaneous speech.
If you are interested in setting up a speech evaluation, contact Speech Language Pathologist, Christine Wilson.

Building a Foundation for Reading and Writing: Birth through Preschool

Building a Foundation for Reading and Writing: Birth through Preschool

by Suzie Hill, M.Ed.
According to the Partnership for Reading (2003), there are five basic principles that help preschoolers learn to read and write. To become good readers, children need to be given a lot of chances to practice these principles: talking and listening, print and books, sounds in spoken language, the ABCs, and reading aloud.
1. Talking and Listening
Children already know a lot about talking and listening by the time they are a year old. They recognize the sounds and rhythm of words, and they know which words are important to them. Children learn a great deal by listening to family members talk. Children who have many interactions and conversations with adults are much more likely to be strong readers.A regular paragraph (or standalone text).
2. Print and Books
It is important for children to learn about print and books and understand the ways that we use print. For example, very young children may not be able to read yet, but they can learn the right way to hold a book, to turn pages one at a time, and to read words from left to right (Partnership for Reading, 2003). It is critical for children to learn that print is all around them and a part of everyday life. They will see print not only in books, but also in magazines and newspapers and on signs and labels—just to name a few.
3. Sounds in Spoken Language
Children notice characteristics of spoken language long before they enter school. They begin to hear that some words rhyme, that words make up sentences, that some words start with the same letter, and that words have parts called syllables. When children begin to understand these things, they are increasing their phonological awareness —the ability to hear and work with the sounds of spoken language. Children also begin to notice that words are made up of smaller, separate sounds. When they understand this, they are developing their phonemic awareness skills. Research shows that a child’s ability to learn to read depends on the strength of his/her phonological and phonemic awareness skills.
4. The ABCs
The ABCs are important for children to know. Most children entering school know how to sing the alphabet song. Their ability to recognize the shape and name of each letter and how to write it improves their ability to read.
5. Reading Aloud
Reading aloud is one of the most important things a parent can do when helping his/her children learn to read. Reading aloud gives children a chance to hear what reading should sound like. They can hear the different tones their parents use to show voice in reading. They can see and feel the excitement and enthusiasm in their parents’ voices as they read. Reading aloud to children helps them learn more about written language, vocabulary, and print.
  • Read aloud to children several times a day.
  • When you are reading to your child, allow him/her to actively participate. Let him/her point to pictures and words and help turn the pages.
  • Have books in every room of the house.
  • Label things around the house such as cabinets, appliances, lamps, furniture, doors, etc.
  • Talk to children and encourage them to communicate, whether it be gurgles from a baby or questions from a 4-year-old.
  • Have lots of ABC activities such as magnets for the refrigerator, foam letters for the bathtub, and puzzles.
  • Allow children to look through magazines and newspapers.
  • Let your children see you reading.
National Adult Literacy Database. (2006). Retrieved March 31, 2008, from
The Partnership for Reading. (2003). Retrieved March 26, 2008, from
Even Start Family Literacy Program. (2008). Retrieved March 26, 2008, from
National Parent Information Network (NPIN). (2008). Retrieved March 26, 2008, from
If you have further questions, please contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson.

Building Early Literacy Skills through Speaking and Listening

Building Early Literacy Skills through Speaking and Listening
Written by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
How do oral language skills develop?
Communication begins with hearing and responding to sounds. Children begin communicating and developing language the day they are born. As children grow and develop, they begin listening for different purposes and responding with words instead of sounds and gestures. Receptive language (listening) precedes expressive language (speaking). Receptive and expressive language skills, or oral language skills, lay the foundation for future success in reading and writing. These skills develop as children have opportunities to listen to and talk with their parents, relatives, friends, caregivers, etc. Children must be able to listen to and understand words before they are able to produce words and use them effectively.
Learning to Read and Write
Early educators know the importance of oral language development. They ask children open-ended and yes/no questions, expose them to and teach them to explore vocabulary by playing with words (rhyming, substituting letters, singing songs, etc.), and encourage them to converse with each other. However, basic communication isn’t just talking and listening; it involves thinking, knowledge, and application of skills. It also requires practice and training. Focusing on oral language is especially important for children for whom English is a second language and for those not exposed to written language materials at home.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative – 2010 addresses the importance of oral language skills. The Common Core State Standards document includes a vigorous set of Speaking and Listening standards for grades K – 3 (and extending through grade 12) that require educators to bring oral language skills to the forefront of elementary classrooms. These skills help students learn to read and master the printed word and generalize their word knowledge into other contexts.
Here are some simple activities that promote oral language development in preparation for learning to read and write. These activities will help preschoolers be ready to tackle the Common Core State Standards for Speaking and Listening that begin in kindergarten.
  • Engage your child in conversation throughout the day. Do not use baby talk. Speak at an appropriate rate and volume and in normal tones without unnecessary exaggeration.
  • Read with your child every day. Ask him or her, “What do you think will happen next in the story? Would you have done that? What do/did you like best about…? Do you think that could/would ever happen to you?” This is a time to read slowly with inflection, using different voices for different characters. Follow words with your finger as this shows children that reading words moves left to right across a page. They will also see how to hold a book while reading.
  • Read everything: labels, cereal boxes, road signs, menus, newspapers, comic books!
  • Play games that focus on the importance of listening: Simon SaysHokey PokeyTelephone, or while reading, ask questions like, “Do you remember the dog’s name? What did the family do after dinner? Who do you think is coming to visit?”
  • Teach the rules of conversation early (listening and speaking): do not interrupt someone that is speaking, take turns speaking, stay on topic, use an appropriate volume while speaking (inside/outside voices), etc.
  • Create opportunities for children to follow and give oral directions that follow a sequence using simple crafts, activities, chores, or while playing games.
  • Use language for a variety of purposes: singing, reading and talking about signs, reading books, following recipes, writing or reading an email to Grandma, etc.
  • Ask children questions about and discuss age-appropriate topics: What do like best about preschool/your babysitter/going to the park/shopping…?” Encourage children to ask questions of others. “Ask Mr. Brown where he got his new puppy!”
  • Prompt children to talk about and describe their feelings and ideas. How do you feel about asking the neighbors over for dinner? What do you think we should do today?
  • Ask open-ended questions. What would you do if….? What if you had …? Where would you go if…? Encourage children to extend their answers by expanding the question….But what if you couldn’t ….? What do you think would happen if you…? Who/what would you take with you?”
  • Teach new words and incorporate them into normal conversation. Instead of stir the eggs and sugar together, say, “Let’s blendthe eggs and sugar together.”…etc.
  • Make letter flash cards. Begin teaching letter names and sounds starting with the letters in the child’s name. Teach only a few letters at a time. After mastery of those letters, add a few more. Do not start with all 26 letters! Cover a table top or a wall around the bathtub with shaving cream. Let the child “write” words or draw letters in the shaving cream.
  • Talk about things that begin with the same sound as his/her name. After learning “B” is for Beth, help the child name other objects that begin with “B” or the /b/ sound: bat, ball, bathtub, bell, etc. Then move on to other letters and naming objects that begin with that letter sound. Have a “B” letter hunt. Have the child find the letter “B”/”b” in books, on signs, and on packages.
  • Teach your child to recognize environmental symbols and signs: restroom, emergency, danger, exit, hospital, cross walk, stop, railroad, etc. Quiz the child while riding in the car, “What do you think that sign says?”

If you are interested in setting up a speech evaluation or treatment appointment, contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson.