Babies and toddlers go through extremely rapid language development in their first two years. Children explore and learn all the silly sounds they can make (vocal play) and begin to grasp that sounds can have meaning. Children quickly understand how to make their wants and needs known, but there are several tips that parents can utilize to help support and encourage language development.
Tips to Get Your Toddler Talking:
- Communicative Temptation: Using communicative temptation principles, try setting up environments and situations to foster and encourage language use, specifically via verbal expression or gesturing. Holding desired objects or placing them out of a child’s reach encourages children to communicate with caregivers in order to make wants/needs known and met. Once children attempt to communicate, be it verbally or through gestures, praise the child and reward them with the desired object.
- Play: Follow children’s lead for play. Allow them to engage with you during activities, their added interest in play will often foster language acquisition more naturally.
- Model: When a child is acquiring expressive language, parents should be modeling their own speech for their child to imitate. Frequently labeling common objects – such as favorite foods, toys, and family member names – throughout the day, will encourage imitation.
- Create verbal rituals: Creating situations where a child comes to expect language can encourage his participation in rituals. For example, saying “hi” to each toy animal as you take it out of the box, or even singing the same song every night at bed time. Pausing during songs and allowing children to finish (e.g., “the wheels on the bus go ____”) can help support and increase language.
- Label: Repeatedly label the actions/objects a child desires throughout his day. For example, if a child demonstrates that he wants to be picked up through gesturing, while picking him up say “up” and encourage imitation.
- Narrate: Narrate activities that are going on around the child, to provide a language-rich environment. This may include listing off grocery items as parents put them in the cart, or explaining what the dog is doing (e.g., “oh, Mario is wagging his tail!). Parents may also describe their own activities (e.g., making lunch, going for a walk, etc.).
- Appropriate Complexity: Talk at or just above the child’s language level. Allowing children to hear language that is age-appropriate will encourage understanding and encoding. Using language that is too complex can cause confusion or misunderstandings in babies and toddlers.
- Gesture: Gesturing can be a great way to promote social development. Gestures are intentional communication, and parents can use gestures to encourage socialization and verbalization. Try pairing a wave with expressing “hi” or “bye!”
- Clarification of Speech: Focus on what toddler is saying not how clearly she is saying it. Allow children to make verbal attempts, even if caregivers can only understand 50-75% of what is being said. Parents can model appropriate speech clarity, but children should be praised for making attempts at this age – remember is it still cute when they are little!
- Auditory Bombardment: When targeting vocabulary, create a “language sandwich” for your children. This includes identifying a new word, using it in a sentence, then repeating the word again! For example, “dog, the dog is barking, dog!” Bombarding children with novel words allows them more exposure to new words, and it also helps with carryover and usage.
The tips above represent ideas that can help encourage language development. Should parents have specific questions about their child’s language acquisition, a licensed speech-language pathologist can help!
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!