As an overly worried mother (like me), I bet you are wondering if your toddler is developing correctly. If the speech development is not delayed, if s/he’s saying enough words for his/her age and understand you well enough.
Since I’m not a specialist in a language development or anything of this sort, I did my research on the topic and found out there are different views and opinions about dos and don’ts when teaching your little one those first words and sentences.
There’s one thing every expert agrees on: it’s important that you encourage speaking from early stage and include it in your daily routine- the more you talk to your baby the quicker s/he will learn.
In today’s post I’ll give you some tips on how to get your toddler to start talking.
1. Try to communicate with your toddler
Talk to your little one as often as possible during everyday activities- when playing, bathing or eating. If you ask her a question, give her some time for an answer.
Always use your baby’s name to bring her attention. Describe things that you’re doing and things you’re planning to do together. Name things that you see and point them with your finger so your child gets the idea of what the new word means.
It’s important for your child to see that you respond to the non-verbal communication. So, if s/he’s pointing at something she wants or bringing you an item, say out loud what it is.
Whatever your toddler is trying to express (even when saying it unclearly), try to repeat it and expand on it. For example, if you’re on the playground and s/he says ‘ide’ (pointing at the slide)-you can ask: ‘You want to go on a slide? Great, let’s go and use the slide’.
And remember, babbling is a form of talking so don’t ignore it. Instead, encourage the conversation- pretend you’re debating on something meaningful!
Make sure you’re giving her plenty of opportunities to gain that new vocabulary. Do some field trips (even if it’s just a walk in the park), go to a museum, a zoo or an aquarium.
2. Make your speech sound simple
When you’re talking to your little one, it’s best to use short sentences and accentuate the most important words. This will make your child focus on the key information.
Let’s say, you’re doing a potty training but your toddler did his business into a nappy (again), instead of telling him that it’s wrong and he needs to use his potty when he feels the need, just say: ‘Poo on the potty, please’. It’s all about the quality rather than the quantity of words you’re using.
Also, you should let your baby know what you mean by showing him things, for example, if you say: ‘Jacket off’, you take his jacket off; when asking :’would you like some water?’ point at his sippy cup.
Using objects to choose from is a great way for your kids to understand what’s going on. If you’re asking which fruit would they like to eat for supper, grab and show them each fruit as you name them (‘do you want apple or banana?’). This will make it clear for your toddler that s/he has to make a choice between two different things.
3. Use your normal voice without diminutives
When communicating with your toddler you should use your natural voice (but talking a bit slower than usual). It reminds us we are talking to an actual person, plus it demonstrates a tone you want your little one to adopt.
What’s more, you shouldn’t use any diminutives (I know this might be difficult as I do it myself). It could confuse your child while s/he’s in the process of learning. The more s/he hears the language spoken properly, the faster s/he will learn to use it.
Experts also say, there’s no need to use a third person. Apparently, our kids are well aware of who mummy, daddy or grandma is. So instead of saying: ‘Leave mummy alone, mummy’s busy’, you can simply say: ‘go and play, I’m busy right now’.
4. Read books and sing nursery rhymes
There’s nothing more enjoyable than learning through fun. So, apart from using speech developmental toys, read books and stories. If your toddler has her own favourite books, read it to her as often as possible.
Don’t get upset, if s/he wants to stay on a particular page for longer- use this time for describing everything you see and even elaborating on the topic by using your imagination. If s/he wants to skip pages or finish reading by the end of the book- let her and leave it for later. It’s important you don’t force anything as your toddler may easily get discouraged.
Singing nursery rhymes is also a fun way to enrich the vocabulary.
——->Click here to find out about my top 10 books and bedtime stories your toddler will love<——
5. Teach through fun and games
As we all know, kids learn the fastest through playing (well, adults too!). So, have as much fun with your baby as you can.
For example, you could let your toddler pick a toy or a game and talk about what he’s doing. When you repeat the words you want him to remember, make sure he sees your face and mouth. This should will boost his confidence in expressing himself through words.
It’s a good idea to make a matching noise game: you show a picture(or a toy) of a dog (or some other animal) and ask what sound does it make (‘woof woof’!) and then you change the roles.
You can also take your kid’s favourite teddy (or better a puppet if you have one) and play a ‘pretend’ game. Name whatever the teddy is doing: sitting, eating or watching TV. When you’re doing a puppet show, ask your toddler a question so he could respond. This will help him with getting the idea of taking turns in a conversation.
Another fun game is ‘Simon says’- give your child simple instructions such as ‘Simon says put your hands in the air’ and show him how to do it before asking him again.
For more fun ways to teach your toddler through playing click here.
6. Don’t test and correct
If you put too much pressure on your kid, it might give you the reverse effect. So as much as tempting it is to make your little one show off his freshly learned new word to the auntie, try not to do it.
Another thing are corrections. When children are learning a language, it’s normal for them to mistake colours, numbers, names or animals. You shouldn’t correct them or criticise them as it’s not only discouraging but also futile- they will naturally learn the difference in the nearest future.
Instead, just say the word they meant properly. The more they hear the right word, the sooner they’ll learn to pronounce it. And it’s definitely a good idea to give them lots of praise when they use the word correctly.
7. Limit screen time
For kids under 2, it’s recommended to watch TV (or anything on a laptop/phone) no more than 30min a day. It’s because they will learn much more through playing and listening to adults rather than from cartoons. Also, the background noise of the TV (or radio) makes it harder for your baby to understand you.
However, there are plenty of educational programmes on the Internet, YouTube specifically. My favourite one is Baby Einstein channel as it’s been created by child psychologists. They’re actually very stimulating and my daughter managed to learned few new words just by watching a couple of episodes repeatedly.
So, if used within limits, playing toddler shows or cartoons might be an additional way of learning new vocabulary.
8. Be kind and patient
Don’t over stress and don’t compare your toddler’s performance to his peers. Remember, every child is different and you need to trust your daughter/son that s/he will develop the speech in the right time,
It often happens that mums wake up and discover their little ones’ verbal skills just appeared overnight.
When you give instructions make them simple and use a soft voice, for example: ‘Bring me your shoes please’, without getting upset or annoyed if s/he doesn’t get the command at first.
If you have a bilingual child…
There are ways to help your toddler with more than one language. Knowing an extra language(s) will help in the development of his/her English.
Since children are very adaptable, you should talk to your baby in whatever language feels comfortable to you. It’s totally fine if the other parent talks in another language. Your little one will cope with it easily.
However, bilingual children often learn first words and sentences a bit slower than their peers. It’s because their brain has to work harder than usual. On the bright side, speaking more than one language will be very beneficial to their general process of learning. So you might be raising a future A+ student!:)
When should you have reasons to worry?
Since every child develops at their own pace, there shouldn’t be any issues if your toddler is not saying many words but s/he’s communicating with you non-verbally (at leats, up until certain age). However, sometimes speech development delay occurs and you’ll need a professional help to sort it out.
Here there are certain signs you should watch out for.
– By the age of 18 months: your toddler prefers gestures and does not attempt to speak, has problems with understanding simple commands and/or can’t imitate any sounds.
-By the age of 2: can only imitate speech but can’t build words spontaneously, keeps repeating the same sounds and words (and seems not to learn anything new), can only express his immediate needs, can’t combine 2 words together.
-By the age of 3: can’t talk in short sentences.
If you notice any of that, it’s best to talk to your GP. They will do the assessment and, if necessary, refer your child to a speech and language therapy department.
Hope you found this post useful.
Feel free to leave a comment below!