Learning to speak is not an easy task. Speech is a complex fine motor task that requires your tongue, lips, jaw, teeth, and lungs to work together and at the right time to make a sound. It is also complicated by the fact that much of the work is being done where we can't see it, inside our mouth. Children learn how to string beads on a string by watching someone string beads on a string and they learn how to jump by watching someone jump up and down. Now, imagine trying to learn how to speak when you can't see the body parts used to make the sounds. It would be pretty challenging to say the least. This is when targeted exercises to increase oral awareness and sensation coupled with "mirror play" can be fundamental to your child learning and practicing new sounds. The easiest time to fit this activity into our busy days is when you are already near a mirror. Morning and evening routines are typically spent near a bathroom mirror which makes it the perfect time and place to engage in a few minutes of "mirror play". I like to incorporate the following activities into most "mirror play" times with my clients. Give it a try in your home and see if your child's speech starts to increase or becomes more precise and articulate.
Show me your clean teeth. Say "eeeee."
Pretend you are a shark- Chomp, chomp, chomp!
Open up and say "ahhhhh."
Close your lips really tight and say "mmmmm."
Show me a fishy face!
Pretend you have ice cream on your lips and lick it off.
Pop your lips like me, "pop-pop-pop."
Pucker your lips and blow a kiss.
Make your funniest face!
Stick your tongue out and try to touch your nose.
Make your tongue dance around! '
All of these activities target the oral structures necessary to produce speech sounds. Be mindful to not over do it, 2-3 of these a day/night will be just enough to provide your child with the stimulation and strengthening needed to increase speech productions.
Watch for our next blog post on how to use snack time to increase oral awareness and strength for speech sounds.