Ah, talking. Isn’t it fun when your toddler starts to chatter at you? When they mimic your words, your inflections, and your gestures, they’re showing off to you how great they’re going to be as communicators! Supporting your child’s language development is vital to their success as they continue to grow and interact with others. They’ll need some great language skills in play groups, pre-school, and (of course) to let you know what they need at home! And, I’ll tell you a secret, once your toddler can talk, you’ll find that they don’t get frustrated quite as often as they used to, now that they can tell you what they want! That will eliminate one of the 4 reasons why your toddler has tantrums!
So what are a few ways that you can support your child’s language development? These may seem simple, and even obvious, but many parents fall down with at least one of these steps!
1. Talk to Your Toddler
This is probably the easiest step of all. As you go through your day, tell your child what’s happening in the world around them! Point out interesting things to them and give them a name.
“Look! There’s a bird!”
“Wow, that’s a big river.”
“You have a rock!”
The more that you name and explain the world that your child is interacting with, the more your baby will know about it! Talk your child through everyday tasks and situations as well. I always tell my daughter, as she is being dressed, what we are doing. This has helped turn dressing from a rodeo into a collaborative activity!
“Now we need your pants. Where are your pants? There they are! Put your leg in. (No, don’t take your other leg out…) Now pull them up!” Etc. As you work, explain what you are doing, and what your child is doing. The more vocabulary they are exposed to, the better!
Baby Centre gives some great tips in this post, such as shortening your sentences to allow your toddler to follow along more easily, and making sure to expose your child to new situations so that you can introduce new words.
2. Mimic Their Words Back to Them
I think that this one is often overlooked. As your child starts to experiment and try to emulate the words you are saying, it’s important to repeat their attempts back to them, and then correct them. This is helpful because it allows them to hear what they said, and compare it to the correct pronunciation.
“Here is your blanket!”
“Yes, Binki. Your blanket!”
So, not necessarily correcting the child, but allowing to hear both what they said, as well as how the word should sound. Acknowledge their attempt enthusiastically, to encourage them to keep trying, and then repeat back to them how the word will sound when they get it right!
3. Let Them Speak!!!
This one is by far the most important, in my humble opinion! Have you ever seen a child start to talk at the table, and be quickly silenced by a pacifier or a straw? Children who don’t get the opportunity to attempt speaking will have a very hard time developing their language skills!
Apart from simply learning how to talk, language skills also support social skills. As your little one grasps the art of language, they’ll also be learning about the give and take of conversation, asking and answering questions, and the manners involved in interacting with others. As you let your child talk, you’ll see them learning how to thank the worker at the drive-thru window, or have a full-fledged conversation with their friends. Whether or not your child is fluent in their speech, you will see them ask a question and pause to let their speaking partner attempt an answer!
There are so many ways that we can support our children’s learning and interaction with the world through language. The most important thing to remember is to be respectful, and treat your child like a person! You wouldn’t ignore a specific question from your co-workers or friends, so why would you ignore your child’s queries? You wouldn’t cut off your mother in mid-sentence and tell her that it’s not time to talk (I hope…), so why would you not allow your child to speak? Remember that they’re little grown-ups in training, and every example you set is one that they learn from!