Verbal language is a skill that not only serves to express needs and desires ; it is a competence that greatly influences the ability to organize, structure and mentally assimilate external information.
It is a process that generally begins during the first year of age, with sometimes unintelligible sounds and babbling, and it is estimated that around the age of 2 the first words begin to be structured.
The first phrases and more complex words are acquired between the ages of 3 and 4 and it is expected that at these ages other communication skills will also be developed, such as greeting or saying goodbye, interacting orally with peers, understanding orders, repeating topics, asking some questions, speaking spontaneously, improving pronunciation, among others.
Exercises to stimulate verbal language
It may take a little longer for children to acquire the skills needed to communicate verbally, and this usually causes caregivers a lot of stress, especially if the children have already started school.
Fortunately there are several exercises that we can do, even at home, that stimulate several of the skills needed to develop oral language.
Below we explain four exercises which can be useful and simple , and which also take into account that language is acquired through the successive development of different skills.
1. Working on tongue and lip praxias (mouth gymnastics)
Praxias are voluntary motor skills that we generally acquire by imitation. Lingual praxias are the movements that we voluntarily perform with our tongue and lip praxias are movements that we perform with our lips.
Performing both tongue and lip praxias promotes articulation; that is, they are useful because they stimulate the parts of the body that allow us to make sounds and words. For example, we can sit facing the child, move our tongue in different ways that attract his attention and ask him to imitate these movements.
We can also make games that involve blowing, smiling or making facial gestures that allow us to move our lips in different ways. One of the most attractive exercises for children is to make a die with different images that illustrate different ways of moving the lips and the tongue, and ask them to imitate them with us.
2. Stimulate vocabulary with onomatopoeias
An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound of the action or object it refers to. For example, the sound we make when we knock on a door, the sound of the bell, the clock, an object falling, the sound made by dogs, birds, cows, sheep, trains, cars, fields or ambulance sirens.
These are all attractive and easy to pronounce for children, so they are a good starting point when we want to stimulate oral language. So we can play games like car races, imitate the sound of sirens when we go with them on the street or if we see a train, or play at being different animals.
3. Work on semantic fields: start with animals, colors, transports
In line with the previous point, and remembering that language helps us to structure and make sense of information and external stimuli, we can help children to acquire their first words by means of different semantic fields .
It is advisable to start with animals, colours or transports because these are the stimuli that are generally closest, making their acquisition easier.
We can present them not only the sound but also the name of the object and through different games, for example we can play the farm, or go on a trip, tell stories where the protagonists are animals, pair different objects of the same color, paint and ask for the name of the colors, etc.
4. Use material where they can associate image and word
In the first stages of development, the information we receive is fundamentally sensory, that is, it enters through sounds, smells, touch, tastes and also visual stimuli .
That is why some of the tools we have to stimulate the language of the little ones are striking images. For example, we can sit down with the child and show him/her different pictures or drawings (again, it can be useful to start with animals, means of transport or the most everyday objects).
Once they have recognized and differentiated the sound of each object we can tell them its name and ask them to repeat it, and even incorporate other objects also everyday such as food or kitchen utensils (for example, names of fruits or vegetables, bread, cup, glass, plate).
Remember that depending on the age it is easier to pronounce some syllables than others, so it is good to start with words of one or two syllables and that have vowels and consonants that are easy to articulate.
Some general recommendations
Children learn by imitation and through observation and experience , so it is not necessary to give them extensive explanations about the games or objects. It is useful to do the exercises ourselves by capturing their attention, and then instruct them to repeat them.
In addition, each child has his or her own rhythm, we must be patient, and do the necessary repetitions. And in the same sense, remember that these kinds of strategies do not necessarily speed up the process for all children.
In order to firmly reinforce the language, an in-depth evaluation must be carried out, as well as a systematic exercise program appropriate to the needs and the area of development of the child. For example, in some cases it is necessary to start the stimulation of language by favouring more basic skills such as swallowing or chewing, which must be detected through formal guidance.