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A Step-by-Step Guide: 13 Speech Concepts to Teach Your Child Using "Brown Bear, Brown Bear"

Preface: I'm doing a little bit of internal research, and I am finding that what is of most interest to a lot of my blog readers has to do with a) children and b) their speech development. Well, good thing I'm a speech therapist, am I right???

So, I decided that I'm going to start a mini-series showing parents specific developmentally-appropriate toys and how to play with them. By day, I work with children ages 0-3 and their families doing precisely that: teaching families/caregivers strategies of how to facilitate speech and communication development through play. So you're in good hands, people.

There is no specific age group that I will be focusing on for this, but I can tell you that a majority of my therapeutic experience in the pediatric realm falls between 18 months to 4 years of age, give or take. However, the beautiful thing about these posts is that I will share activities scaffolding both down and up to cover a variety of concepts and skills. Some of the links provided in this post may be affiliate links, providing a small amount of compensation for advertising a specific product. <--- these are only used if I truly think that they are awesome anyway and worth your money! 

Not all of the activities are going to be books, but the idea is still the same: when we read books to our children, when we play with our children, when we talk to our children, when we cook/clean/live in front of our children, THEY ARE LEARNING. Especially when they are young, they are like little sponges just sucking it all in. So maximize this time, parents. If all you have is 15 minutes between getting home from work and starting dinner, then make those 15 minutes count and maximize what you are doing during that time.

So, without further adieu, I bring you the first set of activities. This set of activities is centered around one of my favorite, FAVORITE children's book: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" by Eric Carle. Turns out this guy really did know what he was doing when he wrote all of these books. Here's why: there is a goldmine worth of concepts introduced to your little cherubs in 11 flips-of-a-page.

Now, there are several versions of this classic available, and this blog post is regarding this particular version: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Slide and Find (World of Eric Carle (Priddy Books)) If you have another version at home already, you can still do a lot of what I'm going to talk about, so save your money! But if you haven't purchased the book yet, this version is my favorite because it is more interactive.

OK. I'm going to break this down speech-wise from easier concepts to more complex concepts. You can choose what level your little kiddo is at.

- Imitation of animal sounds - If your kiddo is just starting to use words and/or still in the babbling phase, concentrate on sounds!!! Anything in the world that can make a sound, emphasize that sound. The pressure is off to perform if you are the kiddo, and it is fun! In this book's instance, it will be animal sounds. It looks a little bit like this: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? (Gasp!) Look Freddie!!! It's a BEAR!!! RAWRRRRRRRR. (Gasp!!) RAWRRRR!" If any attempt to imitate the bear sound is attempted, mirror the "rawr" and praise him/her like he/she just did the most amazing thing in the world. If your kid does not imitate yet, keep doing it throughout the book and in life! They are soaking it all in!

- Holding book and turning pages - Let your kiddo hold the book and start to turn the pages. This isn't straight up speech-related, but it is a developmental skill. Some kids get a little psycho about wanting to turn the pages, etc. Let them have their moment and encourage one page at a time. This is where board books come in handy. The pages are thick and easy for their little cherub fingers to manipulate. If it becomes a power struggle with turning the pages or flipping to the end of the book, pry the book out of their power-hungry little hands, wait for them to finish melting down, and then try again. Being a toddler is so hard sometimes!

- Pointing to animals in the book - A lot of times children are understanding language before they can produce the language on their own. Encourage pointing to the different animals while you are reading by pointing to the animals and telling your child what it is that you are pointing at. You can also do a little hand-over-hand action with them by grabbing their hand and pointing to the different animals with their fingers. Once your kiddo has this down, you can ask him "Charlie, where is the BEAR?" and if you are using the slide-and-find book that I am referencing each page layout has two animals (one featured on the pages and one behind the little door). He isn't going to be inundated with choices and has a 50 percent chance of pointing to the correct animal. Building confidence is key.

- Knock, knock: Open/Close - These little interactive doors are like crack for kids. Anything they can slide and mess with is like the best thing since sliced bread to children! The feature of the sliding doors is actually one of the main reasons why I love this book. Those little doors create a whole subset of dialogue to use with your child. So, it looks like this: "Yellow Duck, yellow duck, what do you see? Look, Sally! It's a door! KNOCK KNOCK? Who is it? Do you want me to OPEN?" Depending on your child's level of current communication, you are wanting some level of interaction, be it imitation of motor movement (knocking on the door), imitation of an environmental sound ("knock knock" or "na na!") or using 1-2 words ("Open!" or "Open Door!"). There is a blessed little door on every page, so 9 opportunities to run this thing into the ground.

- Social graces: Hi/Bye - Again with the door (and with page-turning) is the opportunity to greet/dismiss the animals. You can verbally say "hi/bye" while also waving with your hand. You can model this as the adult or do hand-over-hand with your child. It looks like this: (Turn the page) (Waving) HI DOG!!!! White Dog, White dog, what do you see??? (Gasp!) Knock, Knock!! OPEN the door! (open the door) HI SHEEP!!!! Look Sally, it's a SHEEP. BAAAA BAAAA. Bye bye, sheep! (Close the door).

- Labeling animals by name - If your child is building his/her vocabulary, then your basic animals are all in this book. Don't be alarmed if everything is a dog or everything is a cat. "Generalizing" (i.e. everything animal is called a dog/cow/cat/etc, every drink is juice, every color is blue) is a normal part of speech development. Praise the attempt to label and correct. "Well it looks like a cow, but it's a DOG!!!! RUFF RUFF"

- Body parts - I like going over body parts the best on the page that has the teacher's face. We talk about the different body parts, point to each one, etc. You can also ask your child to point to the _____, or ask your child where is YOUR nose? Where is MY nose? to encourage expanding that understanding outside of the book.

- Asking/answering simple questions - As the title of this book would suggest, this a great book for introducing simple questions/answers! "What do you see?" "Knock, knock, Who's there?" "Where's the cat?" "What does the cat say?" are just some ideas of types of different simple questions you can ask. If your kiddo is not yet answering questions, you can ask the question and then model the answer. It looks like this: "Knock, knock? WHO'S THERE? It's the FROG!!! HI FROG!"

- Big/small - Size concepts come a little later, but this is a great book to introduce the concept. Each page with a door has a big animal and a little animal. You also see a little version of the animal that will be big on the next page in each door. If you want to talk about this concept, it looks like this: "Black sheep, black sheep, what do you see? Knock, knock!!! Open the door! Who's there?!?! Wow! It's a LITTLE GOLDFISH!!!! BYE LITTLE GOLDFISH! (Turn the page) WOW! Look! THERE IS A BIG GOLDFISH!" Imagine that the capital letters are you being super trooper enthusiastic. :)

- Descriptors: 2-word phrases - If your little one is mastering single words, start modeling 2-word phrases using descriptors. Descriptors can be any adjective but specific to this book I like to use the colors or the size. It looks like this: "Charlie! What is that? It's a BLACK SHEEP!" or "Look Charlie! It's a BIG FROG!!!!"

- Gender: boy/girl; pronouns: he/she - The slide-and-find version of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" also has a nice page showing all of the school children. Understanding and acknowledging gender is imperative to use the appropriate pronouns he/she. On this page, I point to and label each child "boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, boy, girl!" or I ask the child to point to the boys/point to the girls, OR I ask the child "Henry, is this a boy or a girl?" and then I say "YES, SHE is a GIRL," or "YES, HE is a BOY" to introduce those pronouns. You can also ask your child "Lucy, are you a BOY or a GIRL?" Beware, that half the time if a kid doesn't know what the heck you are talking about, they will repeat the last option you gave them, sometimes resulting in a false correct answer. Therefore, you can switch the order of how you ask the question and see if they are still responding correctly. Ask them about the gender of you (just don't get upset when they call you a dude by accident!) and also of siblings and other familiar people.

- Colors - This is a pre-academic skill. This book has a ton of colors. Talk about the colors. Point to them. If you have an easily accessible item of the same color (Tommy is also wearing a red shirt), point that out too. "Look! It's a RED BIRD! TWEET TWEET! Look! Your SHIRT is RED, too!!"

- Pointing to words as you read - This is a pre-literacy skill. As you are reading the book slowly, point to each word as you read it. Each point correlates with a word. This shows the older child that those scribbles up there are words that you are reading.

So, that does it for the first step-by-step guide of teaching speech concepts through play! Please be a peach, and leave a comment letting me know if I made any sense and suggestions to make these posts better and easier for you to understand. I am planning on also adding videos and/or photos to make this more cohesive, but for now, this is what I got.


  1. Awesome advice. Takes "reading a book" to a whole new level for your young child.

    1. Thanks for your comment, ma <3 or reading to your young grandchildren :) <3

  2. Thanks so much for.the insight! Our speech therapist recommended this book, now I REALLY understand why! I'll be getting this one :-)

    1. Thanks JavaGrammy! It is definitely a favorite go-to for therapists and early educators for all the reasons I listed! :) Have fun reading with your little one!

  3. great article! i've already been doing some of these things, so that makes me feel good! i'll be referring to this more as i read to her!

    1. Thanks Steph! I really appreciate the feedback. <3 Good job mama! It's so easy to "just read."

  4. thanks for writing some tips concerning speech development..My son struggles with speech delay. He is 2,5 yo and reading ur blog really helps. Thanks. Cheers from Indonesia :)

    1. Wow Indonesia! I am so happy to hear that my blog post has traveled so far to help a parent out! Good luck with your son! Just know that speech delay is incredibly common, and you are doing a great job!

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