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EASY PARENT TIPS TO IMPROVE SPEECH DEVELOPMENT
Every parent knows that teaching your child to eat healthy food and have good table manners goes along with mommy and daddy duty. However, many parents do not know that how their children eat and drink can play an integral role in developing sound oral motor skills that support accurate speech development and good dental development.
Parents can think about teaching the following habits:
Good speech development relies on the ability to "grade" (or control) your lips, tongue and jaw movements. Teaching children to drink out of a regular cup (not a "sippy cup" or "straw cup") hones the important skill of controlling how wide and how fast you open and close your jaw. It also promotes a mature "sucking" rather than immature "suckling" tongue action. Babies can be carefully introduced to cup drinking as early as 5 months of age.
USING JUST YOUR LIPS TO DRINK FROM A STRAW
Like a muppet, when babies and toddlers first speak they use the whole mouth. Adults use the middle two-thirds of their lips to speak. In order to help refine lip movements, teach children to just use their lips (not their teeth!) when drinking from a straw.
BITE WITH THE FRONT TEETH
Finger feeding and using utensils are important skills for toddlers to master. But did you know that sometimes it is important to use your front teeth to take a bite? Many toddlers learn to bite only with their back teeth. When children bite with the front teeth they learn to nudge the food back and forth with their tongue and suction it against the roof of the mouth to swallow. Not only are table manners improved, but "tongue retraction" is trained. This helps kids produce /r/ and /s/ accurately when it is time.
SUMMING IT UP: THINK OLD SCHOOL
Interestingly, many of the table manners our parents and grandparents used probably assisted us in developing accurate articulation. Sitting at a table and learning to take small bites of food, chewing with your mouth closed and drinking from a regular cup all play a role in forming good oral motor skills for speech. This is because these eating and drinking habits will assist your toddler in isolating movements of their lips, jaw and tongue -- a skill which is necessary for mature and accurate articulation.