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How to Empower Your Toddler’s Speech With Words

by Tania Cowling | October 20th, 2014 | Development, Infants/Toddlers

file0001785926379Bet you can’t wait to hear your child speak? I went through this with my children and now I’m amazed by what my 2-year-old grandchild can convey. Although toddlers may not yet be speaking clearly, he/she is stockpiling words and will one day burst into speech. Here are a few ways to help begin the process.

Use transition times for conversation. Have talks with your child at every opportunity. Describe what you are doing with each diaper change, when taking a bath, mealtimes, and just fun times. Toddlers often use gestures and point to things they want or need. It’s okay to support this form of conversation occasionally, however it’s important to give toddlers the words they need and encourage them to repeat them. Be a good language model and talk to them in complete sentences. And please do not use baby talk with them — it’s cute, but it will confuse their language development.

Read simple books to your toddler. If your child is a young toddler, vary from the text and talk about what is portrayed in the pictures. Speak clearly and enunciate. Use a lot of words; verbs, nouns and adjectives are the building blocks of language, so use them freely. Present statements about the pictures and the book and don’t be afraid of repeating yourself. Through repetition, children pick up words like a sieve.

Sing songs to your toddler. The repetition of the lyrics and rhymes will facilitate the learning of individual words and again repetition is the key to this success. Soon, your child will be singing along with you. The use of songs on tape while the toddler plays or rides in the car is like letting them learn the lyrics by osmosis.

Use descriptive words during play. Describe what you are experiencing during playtime. For example, use words that express the toy car’s sound like “zoom-zoom” or “honk-honk” goes the horn. If you are on a climbing toy, emphasize that Lisa is going UP, UP, UP the ladder. “Look how high Lisa has reached the top of the slide. Now, let’s go DOWN, DOWN, DOWN the slide.” This play-by-play describing may seem like overkill, but it’s an active way of providing words that develop speech.

Play some language games. As your toddler gets older, play some word games together. For example, you can collect familiar objects and put them into a box. Invite your child to pull out items one by one as you help him name the item. Or begin naming body parts and make it a game by asking toddlers to touch their ear, nose, arm or foot. Look for opportunities to count with your child. Count as you climb stairs, button up coats, or serve cookies. This is a good way to introduce number words and rote counting to your little one.

And if you take your toddler to daycare, make sure language acquisition receives proper attention. Ask caregivers to spend some time with your child in class and observe what they say and do. Are the they actively talking with the children? Make sure the atmosphere is stimulating and conducive to learning.

  1. Michele says:

    Fabulous suggestions! One other thing that I always did with my children was count the stairs as we walked up or down them. They were able to count to 12 by a young age, just from having done it several times a day!

  2. Tania Cowling says:

    Michele, I’m glad you enjoyed this article and what a fabulous idea about counting stairs. Yes, repetition is the key to learning with young children. Thanks, Tania

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