Helpful Tips & Mistakes to Avoid When Modeling Speech and Language at Home

 You have probably heard that modeling speech and language at home is an important way to help your child especially if your child has a speech or language delay


But, did you know that how you model things for your child can make a big difference in your child’s progress?


Did you also know that there are common mistakes parents make that you should avoid when modeling speech and language for your child? 


I know we are all extra busy these days, so when you work on things at home, you want to make sure you are doing the right things in the right ways, so your child can make the most progress possible! You also may only have a very limited time to work on things each day, so you want it to count! 


You also want to avoid doing the wrong things that may cause a set back in your child’s progress. 


Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are modeling speech and language at home so you can get the most out of it!

Tip #1: Just model, don’t ask your child to say it


It’s sooo tempting to ask our kids to say things when working on speech and language at home. But as you can imagine, this could get frustrating for your child if you are constantly asking them to repeat things all day long…So, I always recommend modeling to parents, because it is a powerful way to teach your child speech and language and you can do it everyday, multiple times a day. 


Side note: there is a time and a place for working on specific things and asking your child to practice, rather than just watching your model,  but you have to work with your child in the right ways at the right level, or it will be frustrating for you and your child. See my ‘parent starter guide’ at the end of this article if you are interested in learning more about how to work on specific things at home. 


As a general rule, modeling is a great technique for parents to use at home to support speech and language growth. 


Remember that when you are modeling speech and language skills at home, you are not asking your child to repeat anything or do anything


You are only modeling things for your child.  When your child is listening and watching your model, they are learning so much! Although you might not notice right away, your child is learning and over time, you may start to reap the benefits. Modeling is such an important part of speech & language development!             



Tip #2: Get your child’s attention before modeling

Choose a time of day where you have your child's attention, your child can focus on you, can look at you and watch your mouth movements.  If you don’t have your child’s attention and eye contact, it’s going to be a lot harder for your child to learn from your model. Get at your child's eye level to help them look at you and pay attention to what you are modeling. 


Speech: Model clear, precise, and slower speech. Pronounce your words clearly and speak in an unhurried way. Make sure your child watches your mouth movements. Practice saying long words one syllable at a time (El…. e…..phant). 



Use self-talk - talk about the things you are doing during everyday routines. For example, at mealtimes, you can talk about what you are doing, “Now I’m putting the water in. The water goes in the pot!” 


Use parallel talk - talk about what your child is doing without asking your child questions. For example, during playtime, you can comment, “Oh! You are rolling the car! Vroom Vroom!”


Use expanding - Expand on what your child says by adding a word to your child’s utterance. Your child says, “Car”, you say, “Go car!”



Tip #3: Work on modeling SPECIFIC skills      

When you know what your child needs help with, you can model those specific skills to help your child learn them. Make sure that when you model specific skills, you are at your child's level. 


Speech: Focus on sounds your child has difficulty with, emphasize those sounds in your own speech. Find lots of opportunities to use those sounds and make sure your child watches your mouth movements.  


For example, if you know your child struggles with L sounds, emphasize those sounds in words. Find lots of words to model with L, one word at a time and in sentences. When you hear an error, model and emphasize it and repeat it back to your child the correct way. 


Model and emphasize L sounds that you say at other times throughout the day. Find other sounds throughout the day in context that have L- point them out, and say them clearly while your child watches you.


Language: Focus on language skills you know your child struggles with and find opportunities in your routines to model those skills: When your child says, "I eated it", You say, "Yes, you ate it!" Find ways to repeat it and find other opportunities to model that same language skill throughout the day.   Model appropriate grammar, past tense, etc.., You can practice this while re-telling a story or talking about an event your child is familiar with. (“Remember when we went to the park? We had fun and we saw the dogs. Then they ran away!)



Ok, now that you have some tips on how to model, let’s go over some common mistakes. If you have already been doing some of the things below with your child, well, you are not alone! A lot of parents do, not realizing why it is not very effective. So,  if you can avoid these things moving forward, you may start to see your child make more progress! And that’s always the goal, right?!


Mistake #1 -  Model by repeating back your child's error

What NOT to do: 

Your child says, "I eated it." You say, "You eated it? No, not eated..... ate." Your child heard you repeat it the wrong way twice and the right way only once. You can see how this is not as helpful because you are modeling the incorrect production. 

What you SHOULD do:  

Only repeat the correct model. Your child says, "I eated it." You say, "You ate it!" Yes, you ate your food." Now, your child heard only the correct model, which is so much more effective. When you do this over and over in different contexts and your child only hears the correct model, it is a much more effective way for your child to learn. 


Mistake #2 - Not repeating the model

What NOT to do:

Your child sees a dog and says, "I see the doddy." You say, I see the doggy." Your child only heard the correct model once. In order for your child to learn from your model, and especially if your child has a speech or language delay, they need to hear your model multiple times right away. 

What you SHOULD do: 

You say the correct model, and then find ways to repeat it several times right away. Your child says, "I see the doddy." You say, "Yes, I see the doggy too! Look at that doggy. The doggy barks!" So, your child just heard the model, or the correct production of the word, several times, which will be a significant improvement in helping them learn it!


Mistake #3 - Asking your child to repeat

What NOT to do:

Your child points to a big ball and says, " I want the bid ball." You say, "You want the what huh?" No model of the incorrect production was provided, and your child is not learning or hearing the correct production. You may not always know what your child is saying, but when you know what your child is trying to say, don’t use it as an opportunity to ‘pretend’ you don’t know what they are saying. This is not helpful to your child learning the correct production of whatever you are trying to teach them. 

What you SHOULD do: 

Model, not what your child says, but model the correct production of the word, and do not ask your child to repeat. You say, "Oh, you want the big ball. Here’s the big ball.” You don’t want to ask your child to repeat things he can’t yet do, as that can be frustrating. So, modeling is a great way to teach your child specific things without creating frustration. 


I hope that gave you some helpful tips and new ideas to try when you are modeling speech and language skills for your child. Remember to model speech and language everyday along with your daily routines, and with you consistently modeling and with lots of repetition, your child skills will continue to grow! 

 Check out my free parent guide here that will help you get started if you want to learn more specific ways to help your child make progress at home!

Also, for an easy way to work on speech and language at home, check out Socky and Puppy, a fun puppet show to watch with your little one- includes a free speech & language learning guide!  




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