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End communication struggles with your toddler by learning how to encourage your toddler to talk early.
During the first two years of life, your baby transitions from idle and observing newborn into an active and curious toddler.
As parents, our role during this process is to create a safe, nurturing environment to encourage our toddlers to learn to talk and understand the world around them.
According to the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, by two years of age, your child should be: speaking in 2-4 word sentences, should be able to identify common body parts, point to objects or pictures when they are named, and follow simple instructions.
Follow along with these 7 easy tips and learn how to encourage your toddler talk. Increase your toddler’s vocabulary and end toddler tantrums and frustrations.
- Talk to Your Toddler
- Make Every Activity a Learning Experience
- Read, Read, Read
- Get Outdoors or Out of the House
- Listen to Music
- Expand on what they say
- Skip “baby talk”
1. Talk to Your Toddler
From the day your baby is born, start talking. Language development starts from day 1.
Although you may feel silly speaking to your newborn, give it a try anyways. Even though they may not understand what we’re saying, we’re laying the foundation for language development.
Babies watch and listen as we speak. They gradually develop an understanding of sound production and speaking just from observing us.
If you don’t know what to say to a young baby, don’t stress over it.
Just describe what you’re doing and what you see. If you’re getting dressed, talk about it, “now let’s put your shirt on”. If you’re playing with toys, describe them “this is your pink elephant, isn’t is so soft?”
Baby’s brains are sponges and absorb everything they hear. When babies start talking, you’ll be astonished by the things they repeat when you didn’t think they were even listening.
2. Make Every Activity a Learning Experience
When I first returned to work after maternity leave, I felt so guilty that I was not able to dedicate enough time to sit and play with my little one after work.
Instead, I was busy cooking dinner, cleaning up, and preparing for the next day.
However, I soon learned that although I can’t provide constant undivided attention, all of these chores can become fun learning activities together.
My little one is always in the kitchen with me while I’m cooking or cleaning up. We use this time to talk and bond.
We name every food and ingredient that we’re using and we count and talk about numbers as we’re measuring for recipes. Also, cooking teaches a lot of fun verbs (stir, cut, mix, shake).
My little one loves to help me find the measuring cups and utensils that we need and we have fun identifying all of the different foods.
3. Read, Read, Read
I can’t stress this one enough. Reading to your child has been proven time and time again to be an excellent resource for building your child’s vocabulary.
Additionally, reading is such an easy bonding activity when you’re tired at the end of the day.
Toddlers are naturally inquisitive and as they get older, develop more patience to sit and read. Take your time when reading and look at the pictures and identify different objects.
Don’t feel that you have to stick to the words in the text. If your child is fascinated by a particular picture, take your time and describe everything “look, there’s the blue bird sitting in the tall tree.”
This all helps lay the foundation for language.
The First 100 Words book has been a favorite in our house from infancy through toddlerhood. As she’s learned to speak more, she’s started “reading” to me and telling me all of the objects she can identify.
4. Get Outdoors or Out of the House
Another easy way to expand your child’s vocabulary is to go outside or out of the house. Any new place you travel with your toddler is full of new words for their vocabulary.
I didn’t realize how true this was until our recent family vacation.
We live in the Northeast and my toddler began talking during this past winter. In February, we took a vacation to Florida and my little one saw someone on a bicycle.
She pointed and said “truck”.
I quickly realized that she had never seen a bicycle (as far as she could remember).
The remainder of the vacation we had fun learning many new outdoor words (beach, sun, sand, swings) to expand her vocabulary further.
I’m not saying you have to travel to Florida to learn more, but look out the window, go to the aquarium or museum, or even go shopping. Every experience is new to your toddler.
There are endless words and concepts to learn.
5. Listen to Music
Listening to music is another fun and passive activity that you can enjoy with your toddler. Listening to music promotes bonding, builds vocabulary, and burns calories too if you dance along like we do!
You can let your little one pick out songs if you have the patience to hear “Baby Sharks” over and over again. Or just play some of your favorite music.
No matter what you’re listening to, your child’s hearing new words and new sentences. We like to listen to relaxing music to unwind at the end of the day or some upbeat music to have a dance party mid-day.
6. Skip “Baby Talk”
When you’re talking with your little one, avoid the common “baby talk” you often hear. I don’t mean that you need to speak to your child on a scholarly level, but do speak with correct grammar.
I suggest against adding “y” sounds to the end of words such as “walky”, “nappy”, “drinky”. Also, don’t abbreviate words for your little ones.
Although it’s so adorable when your little one says “wa wa” for water, or “hungy” for hungry, avoid the temptation to repeat these yourself.
Babies naturally abbreviate and change words as their language is developing.
However, as parents, we serve as role models of proper language for our children. It’s our job to illustrate correct pronunciation and grammar to help toddlers learn to talk.
We need to model the right way to speak for our rapidly developing toddlers.
7. Expand on Words They Say
When your child says one or two words expand on it. For example, if your little one points and says “puppy”, expand the sentence.
You can continue the sentence by saying “yes, I see the brown dog. He is wagging his tail, he looks happy”.
Or, if your baby says “go”, you can complete their sentence by saying “yes, it is time to go”.
When you expand your child’s sentences, you’re acknowledging that you’re listening and understand what they are saying. This is crucial once toddler tantrums start developing!
When you show your toddler you understand what they’re saying, you help build their confidence to keep talking. Also, you’ll help prevent and de-escalate tantrums because they won’t feel frustrated or unheard.
Additionally, when you expand on your toddler’s sentences, you’re increasing their vocabulary even further. This helps them learn sentence structure and more adjectives.
Before you know it your toddler will talk more often and more clearly. If you don’t understand your child at first, don’t give up.
Try to pay attention and put into context what your child is saying. Our little one will frequently use gestures along with speaking which helps put things into context.
Remember, every baby grows and learns at their own pace. However, if you are ever concerned your child is behind, speak with your pediatrician. If intervention is needed, early intervention is the most effective.
So start chatting away even if it feels silly.
Before you know it your little one will be joining in the conversation and repeating everything they hear!
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