Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development – From Birth to 6 Years Old

Parents look forward to the glorious day when their babies utter the first “Mama” or “Papa”. We wait eagerly for the day when our children tell us stories of  Ahmad, Muthu, and Ming Sing from school. The good news is, we can play a part to make that day comes earlier, rather than later. Here are a few activities that we can do at home to promote speech and language development:
a) Birth to 2 Years
  • Reinforce attempts by maintaining eye contact and responding with speech.
  • Teach your baby to imitate your actions, including clapping your hands, throwing kisses, and playing finger games such as pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and the itsy-bitsy-spider.


Talk as you play with your baby
  • Talk as you bath, feed, and dress your baby. Talk about what you are doing, where you are going, and who and what you will see.
  • Use gestures such as waving goodbye to help convey meaning.


“The duck says quack quack.”
  • Introduce animal sounds to associate a sound with a specific meaning: “The doggie says woof-woof.”
  • Expand on single words your baby uses: “Here is Mama. Mama loves you. Where is baby? Here is baby.”


It’s never too early to read
  • Read to your child. Sometimes “reading” is simply describing the pictures in a book without following the written words. Choose books that are sturdy and have large colourful pictures that are not too detailed. Ask your child, “What’s this?” and encourage naming and pointing to familiar objects in the book.

b) 2 to 4 Years

  • Use speech that is clear and simple for your child to model.
  • Repeat what your child says indicating that you understand. Build and expand on what was said. “Want juice? I have juice. I have apple juice. Do you want apple juice?”
Make a scrapbook
  • Make a scrapbook of favourite or familiar things by cutting out pictures. Group them into categories, such as things to ride on, things to eat, fruits, toys.
  • Help your child understand and ask questions. Play the yes-no game. Ask questions such as “Are you a boy?” “Are you Marty?”
“Do you want the blue play dough or the yellow play dough?”
  • Ask questions that require a choice. “Do you want an apple or an orange?” “Do you want to wear your red or blue shirt?”
  • Expand vocabulary. Name body parts, and identify what you do with them. “This is my nose. I can smell flowers, popcorn, and soap.”
  • Sing simple songs and recite nursery rhymes to show the rhythm and pattern of speech.

“This is a car. This car is red. The car goes “vroom”!”
  • Place familiar objects in a container. Have your child remove the object and tell you what it is called and how to use it. “This is my ball. I bounce it. I play with it.”
  • Use photographs of familiar people and places, and retell what happened or make up a new story.

c) 4 to 6 Years

  • When your child starts a conversation, give your full attention whenever possible.
  • Make sure that you have your child’s attention before you speak.
  • Pause after speaking. This gives your child a chance to continue the conversation.


Introduce a new word and offer its definition, or use it in a context that is easily understood
  • Continue to build vocabulary. Introduce a new word and offer its definition, or use it in a context that is easily understood.
  • Talk about spatial relationships (first, middle, and last; right and left) and opposites (up and down; on and off).

“It has a thorny shell and a strong smell. We call it the King of Fruit. What is it?”
  • Offer a description or clues, and have your child identify what you are describing: “We use it to sweep the floor” (a broom). “It is cold, sweet, and good for dessert. I like strawberry” (ice cream).
  • Work on forming and explaining categories. Identify the thing that does not belong in a group of similar objects: “A shoe does not belong with an apple and an orange because you can’t eat it; it is not round; it is not a fruit.”


Example of 2-step direction: “Go to your room, and bring me your book.”
  • Help your child follow two- and three-step directions: “Go to your room, and bring me your book.”
  • Encourage your child to give directions. Follow his or her directions as he or she explains how to build a tower of blocks.
  • Play games with your child such as “house.” Exchange roles in the family, with your pretending to be the child. Talk about the different rooms and furnishings in the house.


Talk about what you are doing at the kitchen. Name the utensils used.
  • Take advantage of daily activities. For example, while in the kitchen, encourage your child to name the utensils needed. Discuss the foods on the menu, their color, texture, and taste.
  • While shopping for groceries, discuss what you will buy, how many you need, and what you will make. Discuss the size (large or small), shape (long, round, square), and weight (heavy or light) of the packages.


Special thanks to Ms. Wong Yee Ling, Speech-language Therapist at Gnosis Hearing (Sibu) for writing this article.
Ms. Wong is the only private Speech-Language Therapist in Sibu. Her clinical interests and services offered are:
⦁ Early childhood speech and language delay 
⦁ Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
⦁ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
⦁ Aural rehabilitation
⦁ Down syndrome
⦁ Cerebral palsy
⦁ Stuttering
⦁ Voice disorder
She is reachable at 084-312 211.

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