Help Your Toddler Talk: Morning Routine
Alright parents, what is the first tip your speech therapist gave you for how to help your child talk? You got it, MODEL language and talk about what you are doing as you go through your day! I know we sound like a broken record, but it’s SO true and absolutely beneficial. With that said, I know it’s difficult for parents to do because it’s just not natural for everyone to do this. It's okay if it's not natural for you, and this post will give you some ideas to incorporate modeling language, narrating you and your child’s actions, and using words repetitively during your regular daily routines. If you missed my previous post, be sure to read The Importance of Routines to know the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ for implementing daily routines.
In this post (and future routine posts), you will notice that I repetitively use the words “we talk about....(xyz)” when in reality, I may be the only one talking and modeling language. When I say this and when you do this at home, it will likely only be the adult TALKING, however, it will be you and your child SHARING an experience together. This is the important part… I’m not talking at or to a child, I’m talking with a child. This goes well with joint attention too- if they look at what I look at, I will talk about it. I will also talk about what they are looking at, “oh wow! You see the bus? I see the bus too!” If a child makes a sound or responds in some way to what I say, I respond to that- EVERY TIME. If you think you know what they want to say, model it for them. This is how children learn, and this is especially important for children with language delays because we know they need many more exposures to words before they are able to understand and use them.
Also note, I don’t say as many words as quickly as I can as it might seem I am while you are reading this - (i.e. I won't say "Bus! Bus! Look at the bus! Do you see the bus? I see the bus! What color is the bus?" like a rapid fire). I pause and allow for wait time frequently to allow a child to respond- It’s also important to not dominate the conversation or ask too many questions or overwhelm kids. This is also a good time to learn turn taking- I say something, you say something. Even if it’s not clear words yet!
Let's talk morning routines! Now I get it, mornings are hectic. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in “we gotta go, we’re going to be late!” that I skip over important steps- so I totally understand anyone who is hesitant when reading this! But for the most part, you will still need to get your child dressed, brush their teeth, give them food, get in the car, etc. I outlined our morning routine actually looks like in this previous post, and in this article, I will give you the language we use EVERY DAY, over and over- repetition is key.
My goal in writing this is to help parents look at their home routine and think about how you can incorporate more language into YOUR day - which is likely different than my day. For some, it might even help to write it down your routine on paper and plan out what you can say. When you read this, notice I put in TONS of exclamation marks- I do normally use them excessively because I’m excited about what I write – but when reading this article, I want you to take that enthusiasm in my tone and use it with your words when talking with your child.
Waking child up: Each morning when we go into our son’s room and we say “Hi Kam! Good morning! Time to wake up!”. You could then say, “Hi mommy!” or “Hi Daddy!” to model language for your child. My son has a beloved blankie called “B”, so we say “Where’s B? Here it is!” “Let’s go downstairs! Down, down, down, step step step.” We have a window in the middle of our landing so we stop at it and talk about what we see, “Let’s look out the window. I see a tree, oh a car!, Look! a squirrel!” The squirrels are his favorite so we might talk about what the squirrel is doing- “The squirrel is climbing up the tree! He’s going down! Look at him run! Go squirrel go!” (This sounds like a lot, but this adds maybe 60 seconds to your regular routine).
Changing clothes/diaper: “Let’s take off your jammies and change your diaper! Phew!!! You are stinky!! You pooped!!” or “You are wet!” (this is important because we want our kids to tell us when they need a new diaper and recognizing this is essential for when it’s time for potty training). “Let’s get some wipes! Oh it’s so cold!! Burr!” If your child doesn’t like to be wiped you can say things like “I don’t like that mommy! Stop mommy!” (*tip- even though you will ALWAYS need to wipe them and stopping isn't really an option, does NOT mean they can’t or shouldn’t say it- we are giving them words for how they FEEL and what we think they are thinking, and this can support self-advocacy skills, so keep this in mind!) “Let’s put your new diaper on!”
Getting dressed: “Let’s find your socks! Socks on! One sock on, two socks on!” My son has cute animal socks, so we always talk about which animal he has and make the animal sounds. This is an EASY way to get kids motivated to talk and expose them to pretend play- we make them eat his feet! “I’m hungry! I want feet! Nom nom nom! ROOAAAR!” “Hmmmm, where are your pants? Here they are! Pants on! Shirt on! Put your arms through, push push push! Where are your shoes?” “I found them! Here they are! Shoes on feet! Yay Kam is dressed!”
Breakfast: For us, breakfast is totally non structured, cause it's morning and we all work and go to school. If you have breakfast on the go like us, I’d use this as a great opportunity to help your child request. If your child gets to make a choice for what they eat for breakfast, you can present them will an open pantry, 3 choices, or whatever your child needs and then wait for them to make a choice (and model the words if they point/reach). For us, Kam gets cheerios, so we hold the bowl out and wait for him to ask, or we model “Cheerios!” before we give it to him. If he spills, I say, “OH NO! What happened? It spilled!” or “Did it spill? Oh no! Clean up, pick up!” I might say “eat cheerios! Yummy! Nom Nom Nom! Is it good?” I try to limit questions, but when I do ask questions, VERY often I will answer these myself after a pause and while I might hope to get an answer, I don’t expect one. *Note- if a child doesn’t want what I’m offering, I do NOT try make them ask for it, and I might model “No" or "No thank you” instead.
Brushing teeth: “It’s time to brush your teeth! Let’s get out your toothbrush. Now the toothpaste! Put on! Open mouth! Brush Brush Brush your teeth! Let’s brush the top! Let’s brush the bottom! Brush Brush brush! Show me your tongue, ahhhhhhhhh” We also sing the brush your teeth song! At our house, Kam brushes his teeth first, so we do “My turn/Your turn”, and before he understood pronouns “Kam’s turn/mommy’s turn”.
Morning chores: I am a last minute gal who values sleep- we absolutely do not have time for this in the mornings, so I make this step quick (Think less than 5 minutes). Kam’s main job in the morning: to not drive mom wild. Just kidding (kinda)! Even for little kids, you can find jobs your child can do, and have them do them consistently. Kids LOVE having jobs at a young age and feel pride and accomplishment that they can be helpful. When you incorporate jobs into your routine and they are done consistently, it takes out the following directions and understanding language component. If I tell my son EVERY morning to feed the cat, and then I go and scoop out cat food… He knows exactly what he’s supposed to do whether I say words or not. However hearing the words over and over WILL increase understanding and will also encourage him to say these words verbally. “Feed the cat, yum yum kitty! Thank you!”. “Help me, can you throw this in the trash? Put this in the sink. Get your bowl”. Simple one step directions- you may have to help and show your child at first, but they will get the hang of it! We also gather up our items needed to get in the car- “Where’s your backpack? Here it is, it’s in the kitchen!”, “Let’s get mommy’s water, now fill mommy’s coffee”, “Where are the keys, we need keys! Here they are! I found the keys!”
Getting in the car: “Yay, we are ready, let’s go! Time to get in the car, mommy’s car. Bye house! Bye kitty!” I turn off the lights and comment “lights off, oh it’s dark!” We open the garage door and talk about the garage, the door going “up up up, it’s loud”, “Open door, get in, sit in car seat, buckle up! Put in keys, start the car!”
Basically I verbally make observations about everything that a child might think about. I might walk through my problem solving (like when I can’t find my shoes- “Where are my shoes? Did I put them here? Nooooo. Maybe I left them by the couch. Oh, here they are, I found them!” And also talk your child through their problem solving too- “Are you tired? I’m tired too. Kam feels mad. I’m sorry, it’s ok, I feel mad sometimes too!”
I really hope this gives you some ideas for how you can model language (without spending too much extra time in the mornings!) and just know- it does feel awkward at first, and that’s ok! Once it becomes YOUR routine to model language, it will become comfortable and you won’t even have to think about it! It also seems like I'm overwhelming kids with words when you read this all in one sitting - so keep in mind these things aren't happening as quick as you can read - the words are much more spaced out in real life time.
If this is your first time visiting Mrs Speechie P, welcome! I give tips to work on speech and language, and talk about Autism regularly on my Facebook and Instagram pages, so be sure to follow me on social media!