Let's Play: the speech and language way

Speech and language therapy ideas for playing at home


speech sounds

25 Sounds to Practice When You Find Your ELF Each Morning

Whether your little one understands the story behind the elf or not, just searching for him in a new location each morning can be fun!  Call out to him several times as your little one is waking up or starting the search: “Eeeelllllfff, where are you?”  If you have a creative, mischievous, messy, or maybe a forgetful elf who sometimes doesn’t move at all… here are 25 sounds to practice with your little one who is just learning to talk (of course many of these sounds could be used for several different elf sighting types!):

Creative or impressive-type elf:

  • Wow
  • Oooo
  • Tada
  • Hooray
  • Woohoo
  • Yippee
  • Aha
  • Yay

Mischievous elf:

  • No No No
  • Uh-oh
  • Rut Ro
  • Yikes
  • Whoa
  • Eek
  • Ouch

Messy elf:

  • Yuck
  • Ack
  • Ugh
  • Eww
  • P.U.
  • Oh no
  • Aww

Forgot to move elf:

  • Huh?
  • Hmm…
  • Oops

Finding anything is a fun way to practice speech and language skills.  If your little one isn’t yet using phrases or sentences then just stick with sound play and single words.  This allows them to potentially imitate a sound that is more within their abilities.  No one likes to be asked to do hard stuff all the time.  Sometimes, we need easy.  We need fun. 

Elf-finding is a fun, repetitive game to play and gets the whole family involved!  For more Christmas-themed speech and language learning ideas, check out: 12 Sounds for Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

If you are looking for toy and gift ideas for little ones, especially those who are learning to talk, go to my BEST TOYS AND GIFTS list.

Most importantly, be sure to “like” and follow me on Facebook so that you don’t miss any of my play ideas for helping little ones learn to talk!

Say it how you say it

Silent letters, “rules” that have more exceptions than the norm, and letters that make different sounds when combined with others… Ah, yes, the English language is a mess when it comes to spelling.  Why IS there an “e” at the end of so many words that makes no sound at all?  Who in the world decided that “I before E” was a rule or that I’s and E’s together were even necessary as they sometimes make the “ay” sound like “neighbor” – ugh.  Trying to help my kindergartner understand some of these AND that “ph” is actually an “f” sound (our most recent discussion)… whew, this is complicated.

BUT, this article isn’t about writing or spelling – thankfully.  This is about helping our little ones learn to talk.  As adults we often think of a word as it is spelled.  I want my little one to say my name so I think MOMMY in my head.  I want her to say “car” so I see this spelling in my head.  I don’t have to worry yet that sometimes it could be a “k” that makes that sound.   Visualizing the word in our minds is usually ok when we are helping little ones with talking, but I often find it creates confusion with the letter T.

It’s perfectly normal for a little one to say “wawa” when they want water.  Naturally we try to help her say it more clearly and repeat back “wa-TER”.  This is the problem.

Do YOU naturally say “waTer” with a “t” sound in the middle of that word?  Most Americans don’t.  We say something like “wadder”.  Most of the time we make middle “t” sounds like a “d” when there are vowel sounds surrounding it.  Examples (read aloud): little, better, bottle, batter, hotter, later, fighter, butter, cheetah, spaghetti, computer.  Did you use a “t” sound or a “d” sound?

Here’s another issue with T in the middle – sometimes we don’t say it at all!  Read these examples aloud: kitten, mitten, button, football, wanted, mountain, interview.  Did you say “t” in those words?

What’s my point?  Well, if we want to help our little ones say “water” correctly then don’t overemphasize the “t” if you normally wouldn’t say it.  If you wouldn’t normally say “t” when looking at the cuddly kitten in the book, then don’t emphasize “kiTTen” when you model it for your child.  If you want your child to say words the same way you do, sometimes we have to forget about how we spell and just say it how we say it!

Here are some other thoughts about letters and sounds and speaking and writing…

If your older child needs to correct the “s” sound be sure to include the word “ceiling” but not the word “shoe”.

If you’re practicing T words then include the word “toy” but not “train” as we usually say “tr” with more of a “ch” sound.

Lastly, if focusing on W words be sure to include the number “one”.  Yep, O-N-E starts with a “w” sound!

Gotta love the English language.  It’s a wonder anyone learns how to spell or speak! Ha!

For more information about a toddler’s speech development, you may want to read:

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

For toys to help with talking, you may want to check out:

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!




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