Toddler Language Development: Articulation Exercises

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    In this article I’m continuing the series of activities for toddler language development, and here are some articulation exercises for you to have everyday fun with your little one.

    Exercises for hands and feet are habitual and familiar to us. It is clear why we train the muscles – for them to become agile, strong and mobile. But why to train the tongue if it is “boneless”? It turns out that the tongue is the main muscle of the speech organs. And exercises for it, like for any muscle, are a must. After all, the tongue must be sufficiently well developed to perform delicate purposeful movements called sound pronunciation. A child suffers emotionally and mentally if he has deficiencies in pronunciation, they prevent him to develop and interact with the peers. To avoid this problem later on, it is necessary to start doing articulation exercises as early as possible. They will help children of one, two, three, four years of age to quickly develop the proper sound pronunciation. Children at the age of five, six years and older will also be able to overcome the already formed disorders in uttering sounds.

    At first the articulation exercises should be performed in front of a mirror. The child needs to see what his tongue is doing. We, adults, do not think of the position of our tongue at the moment (behind the upper or the lower teeth). Our articulation is an automated skill, and the child needs to gain it through vision and constant practice. Do not worry if even you will not manage to do some exercises right from the first time. Try to repeat them together with your child confessing to him: “Look, I can’t do it too, let’s try together.” Be patient, affectionate and calm and you will cope with everything. Do the exercises with your child every day for 5-7 minutes.

    Here is one of the articulation exercises that you will regularly do with your child and which will contribute to his fast and fun language development.

    Why don’t some children utter certain sounds?

    Sometimes it can be imitation of a wrong pronunciation of surrounding people – not only of adults, but of peers as well. So try to make sure that you child hears the correct and beautiful speech more often than a defective one: read books aloud to him, let him listen to the recordings of fairy tales told by professional artists. It is also important to keep an eye on the way of your communication with the child: avoid baby talk, better speak parentese with young children. Often this is quite enough to overcome the speech errors, and the child feels much more pleased when he is talked to like an adult.

    Pronunciation disorders can be caused by the weakness of tongue and lips muscles or a slight ataxia (inability to perform purposeful movements with the tongue and lips). To test whether this is the cause of your problems or not, tell your child “The Tale of a Happy Tongue” and watch him performing the exercises. It is great if while listening to the tail the baby will see himself in the mirror.

    The Tale of a Happy Tongue

    Once upon a time there lived a Happy Tongue. And do you have a tongue? Show me. The Happy Tongue had a house. The house was very interesting. What house was it? Have you guessed? The mouth! For the Happy Tongue not to run out, his house was always closed. And what the house was closed with? The lips. Show me where you lips are. Can you see them in the mirror? But the house has two doors. (You need to smile so that to show the upper and lower teeth.) How is this door called? Teeth. Show me your teeth. Look at them in the mirror.

    One day the Happy Tongue wanted to look at the sun and breathe the fresh air. At first, one door opened. Show me how it opened. And so it was left open. Do not close the first door until I tell you. (Normally, the child can hold the position for 5-6 seconds without twitching, jerks; the corners of the lips are stretched symmetrically.) Now close the first door. Open it again. Close again. (Repeat this exercise 3-4 times. Normally, the movement is performed with full amplitude, easily, smoothly, quickly enough.) The doors of the Happy Tongue’s house opened and he stuck his head out of it (stick out the tip of the tongue). The Tongue looked out and hid – it was cold outside.

    There is a little bed in the house of the Happy Tongue where he sleeps. Look how calmly he is sleeping. (The tongue is on the bottom flat, relaxed, calm, motionless.) Let your tongue sleep too. Do not awaken him until I tell you. (This position is also remained by the child normally for 5-6 seconds without jerks and twitches, the lateral edges of the tongue are symmetrical.) Now close the door.

    The Tongue is very happy, he likes to have fun, to jump, and sometimes he even gets to the ceiling. The ceiling in the Tongue’s house is called palate. Let your tongue jump to the ceiling and stroke the palate. And now let the tongue get to the ceiling and stay there a little bit. (The movement should be performed with the tongue only, without any additional movements of the lips and lower jaw. The mouth is wide open. Quietly, without jerks the tongue is kept at the palate for 5-6 seconds.) Then the Happy Tongue came down and jumped to the ceiling again. Went down. Jumped … (The exercise is repeated several times. The child normally finds the correct position of the tongue immediately; the movement is performed quickly, with full amplitude). The tongue has jumped enough, got tired and went to sleep. Let him rest a bit.

    The next day. The Tongue decided to check once again whether is it became warmer outside. When all the doors were open, the Tongue peeped out, looked to the left, to the right, up, down (the child needs to know the direction of the tongue’s movements, to find the right position at once, to try to perform them completely), he felt that it became colder and went back to his house. The first door closed and then the second one did.

    That’s the whole story about the Happy Tongue. Your child will surely like the tale and a happy time spent with you. You can find more articulation exercises in the next article Speech and Language Therapy Exercises: Part Two.

    How do you develop your child’s language? What does he like the most? Share your experience below! We love hearing from you!

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