The one thing I have consistently worried about with the twins is their speech. A common problem for twins is delayed speech. It’s caused for a few reasons, often twins are born prematurely but more importantly it is so difficult to provide toddlers with speaking opportunities. They get half your time.
It can be the same with two children close in age or if a child has a lot of siblings. Another reason for delayed speech is that the main voice they hear is their twin. Therefore they learn immature speech patterns from each other. Some people call this their own language but really it is just babble.
My twins are two and their speech is really starting to develop. While I am not a speech and language expert I always look for ways to encourage their language skills and these are relevant for all children not just twins. Rose is more of a talker than Charlotte who is a bit more physical at the moment. I have to remind myself to give both of them the same opportunities as Rose will initiate conversations more.
1. Talk. A Lot
OK that may sound pretty obvious but you need to talk to children directly, making eye contact and using their name so they know it is them. I found this hard first time around to start with. You can feel pretty silly having a conversation with a six day old baby. They don’t give a lot back! They are taking it in though, maybe not the meaning to start with but it is definitely there.
2. Avoid baby talk
I think there is a place for baby talk but young children seem to benefit from being spoken to correctly. When it’s hard is when they say something wrong and it is just so cute you end up saying it too. One of my twins says “Pinkles” for sprinkles and I have to admit to getting her to say it lots of time because it’s so adorable.
3. Talk Slowly and Clearly
While I think it is better to avoid baby talk I still don’t talk to the toddlers like I would an animal. Often I use just one word to point out new objects. Then put it in a simple sentence. I slow down but talk a bit higher and brighter.
3. Don’t correct them
It can get disheartening when you are always getting something wrong. Instead of correcting mistakes it is better to repeat what they have said but pronounced correctly. Rose calls her sister Charlotte, Dada. So if she says: “DaDa do it!” I repeat “Yes Charlotte, you do it.” This is definitely starting to work for us as Rose now says her sister’s name right about 90% of the time. It’s only when she is rushing that she goes back to the old way.
4. Extend their sentence
I will often repeat what they have said and then extend it so they use more vocabulary. So if they say “bird” I will say “Bird? Yes a bird. It’s a big bird. What a lovely big bird.” and so on. Again it seemed a bit strange at first but now it’s second nature.
5. 1 to 1 Time
This is the one which is most difficult with twins or if you have a lot of children. They need some time when they are on their own so they have the opportunity to really concentrate. When they were younger I used to use nappy time or bath time and just make sure I spent a few minutes talking with them by themselves. Now they are older I will just grab a few minutes while the other is playing. It’s not perfect though and it was so much easier when I just had one!
I love reading and it’s such a lovely way to spend time with young children. They love looking a the pictures and their are so many great opportunities for learning new words. I find they repeat more when we are looking at a book. It’s hard to find time to share a book during the day so I always make sure they have a book before bedtime. Again I think each child should have their own story time. I sometimes read to them all together but for me it becomes more a tug of war than anything else. It’s hard when I’m doing bedtime on my own and often doesn’t work but when there are twee of us we each take a twin and give them their own time. The advantage to reading is that all that story language and structure is seeping in. Great ground work for when they learn to read.
7. Role Play
Children learn best through copying and some toys are really great for encouraging speaking and listening. Mine love playing tea parties and bringing everyone a cup of tea – this one is great for encouraging conversations. Telephones are brilliant as well – toy ones and real ones.
I have always loved singing. The only problem is when I am tired or stressed I stop. It seems to be the one thing where I get to the end of the day and think I haven’t sang anything with the twins today. Life can get too busy I suppose. Singing songs and nursery rhymes is great and really develops their memory. It’s so much fun as well. Our current favourites are: Three Little Monkeys, Wind the bobbin up, Ring a ring of roses, and Incy Wincy Spider. Their absolute favourite is twinkle twinkle – we sing that at least once a day and often I hear them singing it too themselves. When they were one they used to call starts “Uppa” from the part in the song which says “Up above the world.”
There is so much to see outside I think it is really stimulating. Most of the time we are in such a rush but I like it when we go somewhere like the park and go at their pace so we can stop and look at everything and talk about it. We don’t do that enough.
10. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
It takes a long time but it is starting to sink in. Things I try to repeat every day are colours, counting and shapes. Children are like sponges and it is amazing how much they do pick up.
What is your favourite activity to encourage speech?