Cleveland speech therapists

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language

Cleveland speech therapists

May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports 1 in 12 kids age 3-17 in the U.S. has a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing. Our Cleveland speech therapists recognize that speech problems (difficulty being understood by others) are the most common among kids ages 3-10. Language problems (difficulty understanding others) ranked No. 2. More than one-third of kids with communication disorders has more than one.

As Cleveland speech therapists, we have decades of combined experience in engaging with children with speech-language disorders and delays, and helping to encourage their development on these fronts. But we also recognize that speech therapy is only part of the puzzle! The more consistent practice and carryover a child has across environments, the better these new skills are going to “stick,” and the faster kids will reach their speech therapy goals!

So what’s the best way to practice these skills with your kids? Play!

“Your child’s most important job is to play. It’s through play that young kids learn and grow. So playing with your child is really the best way to help them sharpen those speech & language skills.”

Jaclyn McClymont, speech-language pathologist, owner and founder of Therapy & Wellness Connection.

Any play that engages your child is generally going to be good for encouraging speech and language (as well as positive mental health and interpersonal connection). That said, there may be some activities/games that are more beneficial than others.

Here, our Cleveland speech therapists offer a few of our simple favorites!

Pretend Talk on the Phone

Pretending to talk on the phone is great for teaching kids important words, family member names, and social skills like turn-taking. If they’re very young, you can work on the basics, “Hi!” “Ok!” “Yes.” “No.” “Momma.” “Grama.” “Bye!” Modeling speech & language doesn’t need to be super complicated for it to be effective. The key is to keep it fun!

Cleveland speech therapy kids

“Who’s on the phone? Is it Daddy? No, Ok. Is it Momma?”

“Did you tell Momma hi? Hi, Momma! Ok, bye!”

Sing Songs in Motion

The list here is endless, but to name a few:

  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Old Macdonald
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
  • Baby Shark (if it doesn’t drive you crazy!)
  • Hokey Pokey

Often, kids will copy the motions first. Eventually, they’ll wade in with a few of the words. Before you know it, they’ll have it all down to a T!

YouTube has some engaging videos to go along with these, and the extra visual may help too.

Look Through/Read Books

You don’t have to read a 40-page book. Most kids won’t sit through that anyway. But start with picture books. Think small – 3-5 pages. And you don’t necessarily have to “read” them all either. Look through the pictures. Point to various objects or people in the story. Label them. Talk about what might be happening.

speech therapist Cleveland kids

It will take time, but eventually you’ll be able to get through the whole book. Then you can start reading it. Rhyming or sing-songy books are often best for memorization.

Play Ball!

Kids love balls. They’re great not only for gross motor skills, but also for development of joint attention, turn-taking, and other key social skills.

You can work on words like roll, throw, bounce, catch, down, up, around, over, your turn, my turn, etc.

If you’re trying to encourage requesting, wait a few beats after you’ve gotten the ball for them to motion or ask for it returned.

“You want the ball? Say, ‘Ball!” or “Ball please!”

Narrate everything you’re doing.

“The ball went over the chair!”

Once they master some of the basics, you can start adding other adjectives.

“You’re playing with the big, blue ball!”

Play With Bubbles

Bubbles are so easy and simple, they’re sometimes overlooked – but they can be a source of ENDLESS fun and enjoyment for kids.

Help your child work on requesting the bubbles, model for them “more bubbles” and say words like, “up, down, pop, jump, catch, circle, over, under,” etc.

Speech therapy games

Bubbles are great at bath time year-round, but spring & summer are perfect for taking it outside, and giving them a chance to get some fresh air & soak up some Vitamin D!

Play With Pretend Food

Kids are crazy about pretend food. They love to play as if they are planning, preparing, and eating it. It’s been our Cleveland speech therapists’ experience that even when kids don’t have utensils or plates or cups or play-food, they’ll get imaginative and make do with what they have. So if you have pretend food – cool. If you don’t – no sweat. Kids’ imaginations are a wonder. You can use a block, a box, or even empty boxes or cans, cartons, etc.

You can model pouring food, cooking food, drinking, and eating. You can model words like, “Yummy! Great job! Hot! Cold! Yucky! cup, plate, fork, all done, mine, yours, good,” etc. You can also label different food items, and even put them into categories. “Apple is a fruit.” “Chicken is meat.”

Cleveland Speech Therapists Encourage Parent Involvement!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you play – but that you’re engaged. The best thing parents can do for their kids day in and out is talk to them. Narrate what you’re doing. Narrate what others are doing. Talk about colors, shapes, animals, weather, foods, people, cars – anything that captures their interest and imagination.

If you have questions about how you can engage your child during playtime, our speech therapy team can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun, Sept. 28, 2020, Healthline.com

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists LOVE Repetitive Picture Books for Kids, March 19, 2022, Cleveland Pediatric Speech Therapy Blog

Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Communication Boosters for Kids Under 5

Helping small children learn to communicate is something parents innately start virtually from the moment a child is born. But our Brecksville speech therapy team knows that fostering strong speech and language skills sometimes requires acting with a bit more purpose. Even if you have zero concerns about your child’s ability to communicate, there’s no harm in thoughtfully working to boost your child’s social skills and vocabulary.

As speech-language pathologists who work with young children in the process of acquiring and developing language, we have accumulated many effective techniques that help kids not only in learning to talk, but mastering broader language and communication skills. Here, we’re sharing some of the basics you can use with your child at home, in the community, and during everyday interactions. This is useful for kids with typically-developing speech and language, as well as those for whom such skills are a bit more challenging. Brecksville speech therapy for kids

Non-Verbal Communication

Talking isn’t the only communication skill on the table. In fact, it isn’t even the first. Babies communicate by crying. As they get older, they make eye contact, use body language, and point. Words eventually become the easiest way to convey specific wants, needs, and dislikes, but that comes later. As parents and caregivers, when we recognize, encourage, and positively reinforce those language precursors, we promote healthy speech-language production.

Interesting and of note: Language development and play are very closely related. Kids first start saying their first words around 12 to 13 months, and it’s not a coincidence that this is around the same time that symbolic play begins to emerge. (Symbolic play would be something like holding up a piece of fruit and pretending it’s a phone.) When you participate in that symbolic play, you’re encouraging her language development and helping to expand his/her capacity to represent things both mentally and symbolically.

Create Communication Opportunities

There are many ways parents can create opportunities to encourage their little ones to practice key communication skills. Some of those include:

  • Putting desired objects slightly out-of-reach. Instead of simply handing your child the milk you know they want, place it just out of reach of their high chair. Wait for them to ask for it, or at least signal their desire (point, make eye contact, etc.). Reinforce their communication by saying back to them, “You want the milk? Ok, momma will give you the milk.” Same thing for much-loved toys: Put them just a bit higher up (but not so high they can’t be seen.)
  • Pretend to be forgetful. Kids LOVE this game. You have lots of routines your child has probably already gotten used to – morning, afternoons, dinner time and bedtime. Let’s say you’re preparing her breakfast. “Forget” to pour the milk. She’s going to “catch” you being forgetful/changing the routine/what’s expected. This is a great way to initiate conversations with young kids.
  • Pause during predictable activities. Same concept as “forgetting,” but you’re waiting for them to fill in the blanks. You can start with a favorite song your child loves. “Mary had a little -” and then wait to see if she fills in the blank. That prompts her not only to use her vocabulary, but also practice the back-and-forth turn-taking of language.

Other Helpful Strategies from our Brecksville Speech Therapy Team

Speech and language are skills every child develops at their own pace, but the goal should always be to help them master the next level – while also boosting their self-confidence and keeping it fun!

Other techniques our Brecksville speech-language pathologists use:

  • Imitation. If the child is babbling or making nonsense noise, make another playful sound in response. Imitating a child’s sounds and actions – and later words – shows them that they have the ability to be heard! It also helps them begin to grasp the turn-taking element of language. Eventually, they’ll work their way to more complex communication skills.
  • Interpretation. If a child points to a toy, they are communicating that they want it. Our speech therapists take this to the next level by interpreting their non-verbal communication with a response like, “Truck! You want the truck.”
  • Expansion & recasting. If the child says, “white ball,” we respond by saying, “Yes, that’s a big, white ball.” If a child says, “monkey jump off bed,” we recast that grammar by responding with, “The monkey did jump off the bed.” We’re using intonation and stress to underscore the words on which we want the child to focus.
  • Comment and description. Rather than direct your child during playtime, play a newscaster. Give them the play-by-play. “You’re moving the yellow truck around the track.” “You’re putting the brown horse in the barn.” “You’re throwing me the ball!” This not only helps boost a child’s vocabulary, it’s going to help them organize those thoughts while they’re playing.
  • Contingent responses. This is important, but it’s often one of the toughest. It involves responding right away to any and all attempts at communication. That includes not just words, but gestures or other efforts to get your attention. Kids need to know that not only is communication in general important, but so specifically is their voice.
  • Labeling. You can do this with infants who aren’t talking yet as well as small children – label everything around them. Everything from the rain in the sky to the fruit on their plate to the dog you pass on the street. Label everything.
  • Labeling your praise. Rather than just saying, “Nice work,” get specific. “Nice work picking up your blue bunny and red ball,” or “Great job saying more milk please.” Not only does this boost language, it encourages expected behaviors and manners.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech-language development, our Northeast Ohio pediatric SLP team can help!

Additional Resources:
More Blog Entries:
How Brecksville Speech Therapists Treat Kids With Aphasia, Nov. 3, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog
Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Insight: When Do Babies Learn Their Names?

A baby’s first-year milestones are often met with much anticipation and joy – including recognizing their own name. But what if it sees they don’t by the time they should? How much does it matter? When is it time to seek help from a Brecksville speech therapy center?

Understanding language that is being spoken is a skill speech therapists refer to as “receptive language.” (Ensuring others can understand what you’re saying is what we call expressive language skills.)

It’s important to point out first of all that babies develop at their own pace. Delayed language development isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. However, it is something you want to watch for two main reasons:

  • It could be an indicator of a more significant problem.
  • The earlier you seek intervention for speech and language delays, the less of a negative impact it will have on your child’s long-term growth and development.

When Should My Child Respond to His or Her Name? 

The milestone of responding to one’s own name usually occurs between 4 and 9 months, according to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Not all babies reach this milestone at the same time, of course, but most should be appearing to recognize their name with consistency between the ages of 7 and 9 months.

If you have concerns, these should definitely be raised firstly with your child’s pediatrician. The doctor can refer you for an evaluation of services with a speech therapist and other early interventions.

Some indicators that your baby knows their name:

  • Your baby makes eye contact with you when you’re speaking. Babies do this long before they are capable of knowing their names. If they aren’t doing this fairly early on, it could be cause for concern.
  • Your baby turns to look at you, makes a sound, or has some obvious reaction when their name is said. This should occur with some consistency.

Keep in mind your child’s age. If they’re only 5-months-old, it may not be cause for worry. However, if they’re 9- or 10-months-old and you aren’t seeing flickers of recognition, it’s time to talk to the doctor.

What Can I Do to Help My Child Recognize Their Name? 

While you should voice concerns with your physician and seek a full Brecksville speech therapy evaluation, there are some things you can do in the meantime to work on this skill.

Our Northeast Ohio speech therapy team recommends:

  • Repetition. When you’re playing with or talking to your child, use their name a lot. Address them directly, look right at them. Using their name regularly may help them to have that light bulb moment.
  • Reduce distractions. If there’s a lot happening around your baby all the time, he or she may not be tuned in when you’re talking to them. Try talking to them in a room where it’s quiet and the atmosphere is calm. Play with them for a time, and then see if he/she responds to their name.
  • Adjust your tone. Our speech-language pathologists will sometimes try adjusting our voice tone when we’re speaking to kids. We either make it sing-songy or an excited whisper or goofy; sometimes that can get an infant’s attention better than just a typical speaking voice.
  • Use visual cues. Some children are very visual learners. Put together a simple, cute picture book with photographs of your child and your family. Point to the people and say their names. Make sure you slow down/spend extra time when it comes to his/her picture. Use their name and talk about their beautiful eyes, cute cheeks, shiny hair, and happy smile.
Know that is’ probably your child will recognize their own name before they’re able to actually say it. It could take 18 months more more before they’re answering the question, “What is your name?” And that is Ok. But again, if you have concerns, these should be discussed with your child’s doctor and a speech-language pathologist experienced in treating kids.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Birth to One Year Milestones, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Signs Your Child Should See a Speech Therapist in Brecksville, Aug. 12, 2021,

Brecksville speech therapist

Signs Your Child Should See a Speech Therapist in Brecksville

Kids will soon be back in school, and that means homework, class projects and tests. As the school year gains momentum, some parents may begin to notice their child is lagging a bit behind developmentally in terms of their speech, language comprehension, and overall communication. As a speech therapist in Brecksville can explain, every child develops at a different pace. That said, you don’t want to wait too long to address a speech-language delay or problem. Early intervention can help your child catch up to where they need to be, so they don’t lose too much ground academically.

Many kids who receive our speech therapy services start before they are school-age. That’s because their speech-language delays were evident before they turned 4 or 5. However, sometimes there are issues that don’t become evident until a child becomes a bit older.

Some examples of struggles with which a speech therapist may be able to help:

  • Stuttering. This occurs when speech flow is interrupted by unintended repetitions, pauses, words or phrases. Speech therapy helps your child learn to limit speech interruptions and boost their confidence. A pediatric speech therapist can also help your child learn to control patterns of speech by monitoring their speech rate and breath support.
  • Dyslexia/delayed phonological awareness. Phonological awareness refers to a broad set of skills kids typically develop in preschool as they are being prepared to learn how to read and write. It’s the ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words, and it’s one of the most accurate predictors of how well a child will learn to read in their first few years of school. Kids at risk of reading difficulty struggle with phonological awareness, but there are a number of ways a speech therapist can help. A child who struggles with phonological awareness might have dyslexia. This is when a child struggles with reversing words and letters, decoding, and spelling. The problem is often the phonological language component. An experienced pediatric speech therapist can help identify the issue and also help treat it
  • Reading comprehension problems. Reading comprehension refers to one’s ability to successfully process words, understand their meaning, and integrate them with existing knowledge. Speech therapy can help your child improve their ability to comprehend what they are grappling with things like understanding the meaning of words, connecting ideas in a passage, glossing over or omitting details or difficulty concentrating while reading. A speech therapist can work with your child to help them improve these skills. Not only do we want to help them with reading comprehension (an important life skill), we want to see them actually like reading!
  • Inaccurate use of vocabulary. Let’s face it: English is a confusing language. But some kids have a harder time grasping it than others. For instance, if a kid uses the words “on” and “in” interchangeably or in place of the word, “under,” they might be struggling with accurate vocabulary. As longtime pediatric speech therapists in Brecksville, we work with them to help them understand the correct way to use these words and improve their confidence/reading abilities.
  • Difficulty with reading fluency. As a Brecksville speech therapist can explain, fluency refers to one’s ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. If you or your child’s teacher notices he/she needs more time to complete reading assignments than other kids or that they read each word by itself instead of grouping them together to form phrases with meaning (past the age when they should be more fluent in their reading), speech therapy could be an excellent resource.

Even if you don’t have major concerns, the start of the school year is a good time to revisit the American Speech Hearing Association’s speech-language development chart to make sure your child is on-pace for their age group.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Typical Speech and Language Development, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Akron Speech Therapists Use Sign Language For Kids With Communication Difficulties, June 9, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapist Blog