Before words and sentences emerge, a child needs to possess the ability to imitate. A child needs to react to events going on in their environment and be able to imitate those various actions/gestures and sounds that he/she sees through out their day. Other important pre-linguistic skills include joint attention, eye contact and attention. Exclamatory words quickly draw attention and engage little ones. They can easily be used during play time and in every day routines for a fun and functional way to build and expand your child's language skills as well as develop a larger repertoire of speech sounds.
Below is a list of various exclamatory words that can be paired with different objects, which can easily be incorporated into play time with a child.
"mmmm" "yummm" "ick" "ew" "blah"- These can be used when feeding stuffed animals or a baby doll. Another great activity is using velcro fruit & vegetables and then pretending to eat them. Pretend the foods are good and say "mmm" also pretend they are yucky, spit it out and say "blah!" - kids love this one!
"vrooom" "errrr (screaching)" "boom!" "beeep" "crashing noise" "whoa" - These can be used with a car or any other vehicle.
"weeee" "uhh ohh" "ouchie" "ow" "woohoo" "yippee" "oopsie" "lalala/singing sound" "mwah/kissing sound" "hmm/thinking sound" "ughh/mad sound" "wow" "nigh-nigh" "yay" "gulp /drinking noise", "shhh" "wahhh/baby crying" "aww" - These can be used when playing with toy people and using accompanying items. Such as saying 'weee' down the slide and 'uhh ohh" when someone falls down.
"ahhh choo" - Kids love fake sneezing! Place toys on top of your head and pretend to sneeze and I'm sure your little one will get a kick out of it.
"popping sound with lips" - Use this with bubbles.
"choo choo" - Using a toy train.
"whoosh" "boing" - Playing with a toy ball.
Animal sounds: "oooh oohh ah ah for monkey" "buzzzz for bee" "moo" "neigh" "oink" "baaa" "ruff ruff" "meow" "heee/ hissing cat sound" "quack" "cockadoodledooo" "roar"
The book Moo Baa Lalala By Sandra Boynton is a boarded sturdy book that comes in a small size or lap size that is great to use with toddlers to work on animal sounds.
Using all these exclamations with different objects can be used to establish joint attention with your child (shifting the child's focus from you to the toy and back to you) as well as establish eye contact and attention. It can also be great to build functional play skills and using toys appropriately and facilitate reciprocal play.
When using these exclamation words use a slower rate of speech and vary your pitch and intonation. Overemphasize vowel sounds and syllables. Children are naturally drawn to our voices and are more likely to attend to varying intonation with excitement. Make sure you are really engaging with your child and looking them in the eye. Always accompany gestures as well with the sounds to facilitate imitation of these actions.
For children with delayed language and late talkers, use toys that are your child's favorites. Follow your child's lead with which toys they choose and what they want to do with those toys. From here, pause and wait. Repeat the exclamation several times for more exposure to the word to facilitate verbal imitation. Try to avoid telling your child to "say weee!" etc. Praise any attempts including gestures.
For children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, hold the objects right next to your mouth when saying the sounds. These individuals often have difficulty with coarticulatory transitions, so placing the object at your mouth will focus their attention there. This way they can watch your mouth as you make the noises. Make sure to keep the sounds together and stretch the word out, do not separate them. With CAS, the focus is on movement. (e.g. cow says "mmmmoooo" - not mmm...oooo. Also vary prosody - say sounds in a "mommy voice", "daddy voice" then a "baby voice".
For children with severe speech sound disorders and articulation errors, make sure to extend the vowel sounds when using these exclamations. Vowels sounds contribute more to intelligibility than consonant sounds do. Prolonging the vowel sounds gives more time for your child to think about the consonant sounds that follow as well.
Children learn through play! Remember, they don't like to listen to us, they like to imitate us!