What you shouldn't do, however, is expose your preschooler to flash cards or meticulously correct her pronunciation or grammar. These strategies may inhibit speech development by making the child feel self-conscious or bad when she makes a mistake. Here are more productive ways to help.
- Talk to your child as much as possible. Tell him what you are doing; ask him questions about past activities or friends, relatives, and places he's visited; describe his behavior to him ("You're making an angry face"); explain the day's schedule. Avoid giving a monologue, however. Your child needs to join in with his own thoughts.
- Don't use baby talk or imitate your child's speech. Although she will most likely make mistakes and revert to baby talk every now and then, you should make a point of exposing your child to the proper way of saying things.
- Listen patiently when your child is trying to tell you something. Rushing his speech will fetter both thought and learning, while careful listening tells your child that you're really interested in what he's trying to say. If he's having trouble finding the right word, it's okay to help him in a gentle manner, but don't put all of the words in his mouth.
- Respond to your child thoughtfully. If you allow her to babble away while you mumble, "Uh-huh" or "How nice," she'll get the message that you're not interested in what she has to say.
- Play verbal games. Guessing games are fun and help your child use words while learning things like colors, shapes, sizes, and names. When you're playing together, you can encourage him by asking, "Which block is bigger?" "What color is the triangle?" or "What shape is the hat?"
- Watch what you say. Preschoolers take words very literally -- and personally. If you become frustrated, avoid saying, "You're driving me crazy!" Instead say, "That game is beginning to drive me crazy." That way, she'll know that you still love her.