Children must learn how to speak clearly in order to communicate effectively with others, express themselves and convey what they know. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association warns that children who cannot speak properly may underperform academically, may not be able to access help in an emergency and may experience difficulty in social situations. Preschoolers cannot be expected to speak as clearly as an older child. The ASHA suggests that 4 and 5 year olds should be able to speak clear enough to be understood by most people, but keep in mind that rates of speech development vary from child to child.
Be a good role model for speaking clearly. Young children tend to develop speech patterns based on their exposure to language, so it is important for you to avoid using slang or shortened forms of words. For example, if you have a bad habit of saying “I’m gonna” instead of “I’m going to” or “yeah” instead of “yes,” your child is likely to develop the same tendency. Identify problem areas in your own speech patterns, and make a conscious effort to avoid any that you find. When you slip up, inform your preschooler of your mistake. Limiting television viewing time and choosing programs carefully will also help your child to learn language and clear speech faster.
Read to your child. According to ReadingRockets.org, you can improve your child’s ability to speak by reading to him on a regular basis and by having discussions about story elements. Asking a few questions about the story, or during the story if it is long, is a great way to check your child’s level of understanding, but it also encourages your child to articulate his thoughts.
Break words down into phonemes, also known as sound units, with your preschooler. For example, if your child has difficulty saying the word “brush,” help him to slowly break the word down like this: /br/ - /u/ - /sh/. For each phoneme you say with your child, hold up a finger. After your child segments the word into individual sounds, have him say it fast. Repeat this process for any word that your child has difficulty pronouncing.
Correct mispronunciations. When your child mispronounces a word, such as “liberry” instead of “library” or “exscape” instead of “escape,” simply tell him how to properly say the word. After you pronounce the word, have your child repeat the correct pronunciation. Keep in mind that some preschoolers won't be able to pronounce some sounds, such as the "r" sound, until they are in elementary school .Whenever your child mispronounces a word that is new to him, provide a definition, or demonstrate how to use the word in a sentence. It is easier for children to commit a new word to memory when they understand its meaning.
Encourage your child to speak slowly. Children who speak quickly are often difficult to understand because their words are typically shortened or slurred. The best way to help your child if he struggles to speak slowly is to encourage him to pause between statements or individual thoughts, and simply remind him to slow down.
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images