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5 Speech Exercises for 4-6 Year Olds


Speech and language acquisition is one of the biggest developments young children go through - and one of the most common delays. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 1 in 5 children are late bloomers when it comes to language. There are many reasons why four to six year olds develop speech and language later than others, and AAP noted that simple speech delays are often temporary. 

Signs of language delays

There are two types of language: expressive, which is talking and speaking, and receptive, which is understanding what another person said. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), children who have difficulty using expressive language may have a hard time naming objects or learning songs, and they may also not want to talk to other people or even know how to. Four to six year olds may also find it difficult to speak clearly. Preschoolers who have a hard time with receptive language may get confused by common gestures or questions, and may not be able to follow directions well, ASHA noted.

Four to six year olds may also find it difficult to speak clearly."

If you are concerned about your child's speech and language development, don't be afraid to talk to their pediatrician, who may refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP). It's difficult to tell if a child has a developmental delay or is simply a bit behind, according to the University of Michigan Health System, so SLPs are critical resources. These professionals can correctly evaluate your child and give you language exercises and tips to try out at home.

Here are just five speech and language exercises you can teach your preschooler today:

1. Play a "directions" game. 

Tell your child the two of you are going to play a game, and encourage them to be the leader. According to ASHA, you should have your child give you step-by-step directions on how to do something, such as how to fold a blanket or color a picture. The idea is to help your child think of how they communicate something they often don't think about, which will help them build their expressive language skills while also helping them better understand how people use receptive language.

2. Sing together. 

Many children love to sing their favorite song at the top of their lungs - even if they have no clue what the words are or what they mean. The University of Michigan Health System suggested parents and guardians sing with their four to six year olds, which encourages them to learn new words, practice their active listening and memory, and think about how they express their ideas verbally. They just might not get the pitch right!

Sing with your child to encourage them to utilize their language skills.Sing with your child to encourage them to utilize their language skills.

3. Utilize gestures to communicate. 


Nonverbal communication, such as nodding for "yes" and shrugging shoulders "I don't know," are all ways we talk to one another. Some children who have troubles understanding receptive language also struggle with gestures, so practice the "quiet game," when children must communicate with you only through physical gestures and expressions. Autism Speaks, an organization focused on autism awareness and advocacy, specifically recommended this strategy to encourage nonverbal children to communicate, and it is an easy, fun way for four to six year olds who can verbally communicate to work on their receptive language skills.

4. Ask questions about a character they care about. 

Questions are a great way to encourage your child to utilize their verbal skills, especially when those questions don't have simple "yes" or "no" answers. Ask your child about their favorite book or television character. Why do they like them? What is it about that person that your child likes? Encourage them to act out a scene or predict what's going to happen next in the story, ASHA suggested. Be careful not to ask them too many questions, however, as you want to give them plenty of opportunity to feel comfortable and be willing to talk to you. 

5. Have your child imitate you. 

Seeing a role model complete an activity correctly is one of the best ways we learn, and language isn't any different. Being a good role model in terms of grammar, keeping up a conversation and sharing information can give your child a person to look up to. First, become more aware of how you communicate with others, and allow yourself to talk often to and with your child. Then, play a game where your little one imitates you. They get to practice their language skills and you get to laugh together - it's a win-win!

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