While it might seem adorable to hear your 4-year-old say "pa-sketti" instead of "spaghetti," speech clarity and using proper words is an important part of your preschooler's speech development. Some kids are just learning new words, but other children can actually have a speech disorder that prohibits them from making certain sounds. By working to improve your preschooler's speech clarity, you can help form her vocabulary and find out if there may be a speech issue holding her back.
Model the correct pronunciation for your child's vocabulary. Even if you think the way your child pronounces certain words is cute, mimicking the incorrect sounds could encourage your child to continue using baby talk or incorrect pronunciations. The Children's Speech Therapy Center suggests that you say the proper word back to your child. If he asks you for his "kiki," try saying "Oh, you'd like your blanket? Here it is!"
Read to your child, and expose her to words that she might have difficulty with. If your little one struggles with the "r" sound, read a book that has plenty so she can hear you using the sound in various words and encourage her to do the same, suggests Corella Speech Pathology in Innaloo, Washington. Books that offer repetition or rhyming sounds can be especially helpful as you encourage your child to repeat the sounds or rhyme with you.
Practice naming objects around the house while doing chores, or use imaginative play to get your child to open up and get plenty of practice. Whether you get her talking about the various ingredients as you bake cookies, you name various signs as you drive around town or you have a pretend tea party, you get your child talking and practicing even tough words.
Look at your child and give her your full attention when she's speaking to you. That way, you can easily notice when she mumbles or has trouble with a specific word or sound. It also gives her instant gratification for talking and expanding her vocabulary, teaching that you value communication which will encourage her to talk more.
Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a speech therapist if your child has issues with certain sounds and doesn't seem to be improving, or has problems such as stuttering, difficulty conversing, a vocabulary that doesn't seem to be improving or hearing difficulties, suggests KidsHealth.org. She may need speech therapy to help her improve clarity and address issues that could be affecting her speech abilities.
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