5 Ways To Use Your Morning Routine To Increase Your Toddler's Language Skills
NOTE: This is a previously published article. This blog post features added tips and suggestions, as featured in media interviews that I recently participated in! Added suggestions and tips are in color.
As a wife, mother of two young children and a business owner, I am all too familiar with just how busy each day can get! There are a million things to check off of the daily ‘To-Do’ list and not a million hours in which to do it all. But, like any parent, my children are always at the very top of my priority list, and this means that I am purposeful about finding creative ways to fit them into my hectic schedule. And since I just happen to also be a speech-language pathologist, this often takes the form of games and activities that are designed to build language and communication skills (in super fun ways!).
Mornings at my house are typically fast-paced and very routine. It’s very easy to get caught-up in the automaticity of it all in the effort to make sure that everyone gets out the door on-time. But morning routines are also a great way to get in regularly scheduled language-building practice. If you’re anything like me (and I’m betting you are), then preparing your children to achieve their very best is your ultimate goal as a parent. Growing their language and communication skills is the greatest way to set them on the road to success and this list of five quick and easy ways to use your morning routine to build these skills will help you navigate the way!
Sing Songs (or make them up!)
Songs are a great tool to help grow vocabulary and to teach basic concepts. Pair a song with a routine morning activity and feel free to get silly with it!
Try: Sing a ‘brushing teeth’ song during this part of your morning routine (e.g., “This is the way we brush our teeth, so early in the morning.”).
Tips & Tricks: Add words/lines to the song to teach specific vocabulary (e.g., “This is the way we brush our tongue”) and basic concepts (e.g., “This is the way we brush up top/on bottom”).
Morning Song Suggestions (and links to suggested sites to hear these songs):
"This is the Way We Brush Our Teeth" (can also be used with any morning activity, such as combing hair, getting dressed, etc.) --> Sample Song
"Good Morning" --> Sample Song
"Open, Shut Them" --> Sample Song
"Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" --> Sample Song
"Alice The Camel" --> Sample Song
"Five Little Ducks" --> Sample Song
"B-I-N-G-O" --> Sample Song
"The Itsy Bitsy Spider" --> Sample Song
"The Wheels On The Bus" --> Sample Song
"Hickory Dickory Dock" --> Sample Song
Tag Team Dressing
You’re probably already familiar with the growing independence of your toddler! Encourage this important development and also build language skills by getting your toddler involved in the dressing process.
Try: Play “I choose, you choose,” where your child gets to select one clothing item that they would like to wear for the day, and you select another until a complete outfit is created.
Tips & Tricks: Present your child with only 2 clothing item choices at a time to speed things up and keep your morning on track. Also, try giving your child 1 ‘silly’ option (e.g., a thick sweater as a choice in the middle of summer) and encourage your child to tell you why it’s a silly choice (e.g., Parent: “Is this sweater a good choice? No, it’s silly! It’s too hot outside! Tell daddy why this is silly.”).
Increase your little one’s vocabulary and expressive language skills by having them take a look in the mirror and describing what they see.
Try: After dressing, have your child stand in front of a mirror and describe 1 or 2 things that they are wearing. Introduce them to new vocabulary words when describing (e.g., colors, textures, patterns, shapes, materials, etc.) and encourage them to use these new words each day.
Tips & Tricks: Lay the foundation for more mature sentences and teach new vocabulary by restating and adding to what your child says (e.g., Child: “Ooh, pretty shirt!” Parent: “Yes, your polka dot shirt is pretty!”).
Assign a Job
One way to use your toddler’s “I-can-do-it-by-myself!” spirit is to assign a job that they can in fact complete by themselves, while simultaneously helping you to keep your morning routine running smoothly! This is also a good way to grow your toddler’s following directions and comprehension skills.
Try: Keep your child’s shoes in an easy-to-access area and instruct them to put on a specific pair each morning a few minutes before you’re ready to head out the door (e.g., “Go put on your red sneakers.”).
Tips & Tricks: Grow your child’s skills even more by giving a two-part instruction (e.g., “Go get your red sneakers and bring them to me.”).
Morning Job Suggestions:
put toothbrush/toothpaste away
set the table for breakfast (e.g., get a bowl/plate and put it on the table)
get breakfast food (e.g., grab muffins/cereal/granola bar etc. out of the pantry and place it on the table
clean up after breakfast (e.g., place bowl/plate in sink)
pick a snack item and place it on the table to be packed/put it inside lunchbox or book bag
grab lunchbox and put it in book bag
pick a pair of shoes to wear and put them on
pick a jacket/coat to wear and put it on
The easiest way to build your tot’s language skills is to model good language yourself! You are their first (and best!) teacher, and how YOU communicate is how they will learn to communicate.
Try: Talk-out every action that you take involving your child throughout the morning (e.g., “It’s time to wash your face! Let’s get a washcloth and dip it in the water. Now we have to wring it out. Look at all that water coming out! Squeeze, squeeze, all done! Let’s wipe your face now. Ok, nice and clean!”).
Tips & Tricks: Talk-out your actions even when your child is half-asleep and you’re convinced that your play-by-play commentary is 100% useless — you’d be surprised how much actually gets through!
Learn more about how you can build your child’s language skills at www.lolakoala.com.
Dr. Tinita O. Kearney is a speech-language pathologist who hails from New York and the DC area. She owns a speech therapy private practice and lives to empower families to be their child’s very best advocate and resource. Check out her newest children’s book series at lolakoala.com and subscribe to get weekly communication tips and tricks.