Speech & Motor (fine/gross) Development

Ideas to help your child improve his or her speech
Compiled by Sarah Moon, MS, CCC, SLP

  • Try clapping, tapping, humming, drumming, kazooing or mooing out the syllables in common multi-syllable words (tel-e-phone, el-e-phant, ra-di-o, re-fridg-er-a-tor).
  • Encourage slow rate of speech by using it yourself and having “Turtle Talk Time” when you use “slow talking” just like a turtle.
  • Sing, sing, sing!!! Children’s songs including the Itsy Bitsy Spider; Old Mac Donald; Wibbley, Wobbley, Woo; Shake Your Sillies Out; Twinkle Twinkle; and Row Your Boat all contain many of the sounds, blends and multi-syllable words that your child needs to be practicing. Sing these songs using a decreased rate of speech with clear rhythm and exaggerated articulation. Encourage your child to sing with you. This is also lots of fun to do in the mirror.
  • Mouth Warm Ups. Sit in front of a mirror with your child and make lots of funny faces. Play “Copy Cat” where he/she imitates your faces and you do the same. Next, make up nonsense words or chains of sounds that include some target sounds your child is working on and have him or her “Copy Cat” in the mirror. Take turns doing this as well.
  • Speech diving. Put a bunch of safe objects (plastic animals, pool rings, plastic coins, etc.) which include a target sound in their name in the pool. Ask your child to “dive” for treasures. When he/she presents the “treasure” to you make up a story about how it was lost and encourage him/her to do the same.

Activities and Strategies to Support Speech and Language Development

  • Speak more slowly than may feel natural to ensure that your child can hear all the sounds and words and has adequate time to process what has been expressed
  • Over-articulate beginning and ending sounds of words in order for your child to hear all the sounds
  • Repeat what your child has said using accurate production (do not ask the child to try it again but encourage them to feel comfortable doing so)
  • If your child is able to produce a specific phoneme accurately but does not consistently do so, choose 5-10 minutes each night to practice saying the sounds or words containing the sound in the mirror (encourage the child to watch your mouth so that he/she can see how you are producing the sound)
  • Go on scavenger hunts, searching for items that contain target phonemes
  • Read books with your child each night; pretend you don’t remember thinks that your read and ask a simple “wh” question for your child to answer or make incorrect comments/statements about what you have read and allow your child to correct your mistakes
  • When participating in dramatic play with your child, speak “character to character” rather than “adult to child”
  • Play simple board games such as Candy Land, Don’t Break the Ice, Lucky Ducks, Cariboo, Go Fish, and Memory; use simple, direct language to describe what is happening during the game

Fine Motor Development

Many things children do and learn in school depend on their having good control of their hands and fingers. In school, there are many new things to touch and experience. Your children will need to know how to use their hands well to do the activities and to take care of themselves and their things. Children need to open and close things, to use items without breaking them, or spilling them. They need to be able to hold crayons or makers with their thumb and fingers so they can learn to make shapes, letters and numbers. If children can’t use their hands well, they may be afraid to try new things, and trying new tasks is an important way for your children to learn!

Tips to Stimulate Fine Motor Skill Development

  • Provide a wide variety of materials for your children to use and enjoy: paper, crayons, markers, pencils, scissors, paste, glue, tape, chalk, paint, paint brushes, clay, play dough, shaving cream, puzzles, hand puppets, beads for stringing, pegs for pegboards, lite brite, blocks, stencils, little objects to manipulate, an easel, pop beads, shape sorters, squeeze toys, lacing cards, nesting cups, coloring books, legos, board games (Candy Land, Hi Ho Cheerio, Chutes and Ladders), rice tubs and sand boxes just to name a few!
  • Encourage your children to participate in simple self-help tasks: brushing teeth, dressing and undressing including practice with zippers, snaps, buckles, buttons and “the cross, loop under and pull tight” beginning of tying, combing hair and washing hands and face.
  • Allow your children to assist you with simple household tasks: wiping the table or counters, wringing out the wet sponge, washing and drying dishes, setting the table, wrapping gifts, opening doors and unlocking doors with a key.
  • Cook with your children providing opportunities for them to: mix, stir, scoop, roll, measure, pour, manage the faucets, crack the eggs, and use a mixer.
  • Encourage independence at mealtime: using utensils, drinking from an open cup, pouring, opening a variety of containers like Ziploc bags, milk cartons, snack bags, straw wrappers, cereal boxes, Tupperware and lids.
  • Play simple finger games with your children: The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus and Where is Thumbkin?

Gross Motor Development

Upon entering kindergarten, your children need to have good control over their movements. They need to be able to sit, stand, walk, climb stairs and run when they need to, without bumping into things or breaking things. In school, they will be part of a group that’s doing these activities, and your children will need to do them too!

Tips to Stimulate Gross Motor Skill Development

  • Provide opportunities for your children to run, jump, climb, slide, see-saw and swing: playgrounds with a variety of equipment options like slides, see-saws, ladders, monkey bars, tubes, and swings, play lands with tunnels and ball pits.
  • Provide opportunities for your children to run and explore in safe areas with supervision; the beach, the park, the playground, hiking in the woods, climbing on rocks and sledding on hills.
  • Allow your children to assist in tasks: carrying out the garbage, carrying in the groceries, pushing the grocery cart, sweeping the kitchen, raking leaves, shoveling the walkway and carrying wood.
  • Provide a variety of recreational experiences: ride on toys, bikes, tricycles, hop scotch, jump rope, roller blades, scooters, snowboarding, horseback riding, karate, ballet, gymnastics, hockey, ice skating, swimming, baseball, basketball, soccer, skiing, sledding, skateboarding and remember helmets and safety gear!
  • Encourage jumping and maneuvering on varying surfaces: jumping off the bottom step, jumping down from a curb, balancing along a curb, walking a balance beam, hiking on uneven surfaces, walking in sand or snow.
  • Play body and spatial awareness games: Simon says, hokey pokey, chicken dance, statues red light green light, follow the leader and making obstacle courses.
  • Encourage ball handling: catch, wonder ball, throwing at a target, baseball, basketball, kickball, and soccer.
  • Allow your children to practice ascending and descending a variety of stairs: carpeted, cement, with a handrail, without a rail, narrow steps and tall steps (like on buses).

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