Language is vital to all of us. It is important for children to communicate with others. Not only this but language is very important for every kid to think to himself. It is a crucial tool for creativity, innovation and for learning. Any language you regularly speak in your home will encourage your toddler to talk and communicate his needs to you.
Babies are born with communication skills. It comes naturally to them. Initially they communicate by crying. They know they have to cry when they are hungry, need a caress or need a nappy change. Slowly as they grow they will need companionship, they start making cooing sounds to communicate their need for company. They love spending time cooing and gurgling with parents, this is conversation for them. You can respond to them by mimicking their sounds or trying to talk something of your own in return to their sounds.
As they grow they learn to make sounds, try to speak what the people around them are speaking. To them it feels like they are making a proper conversation to you. Even if you do not understand try to engage with them in speech. Now as they reach one year the toddler will be able to speak one to two letter words like “Mama”, “Dada”, “Mum-Mum” etc.
Encourage your toddler to speak more by speaking to them more often. By 2 years a toddlers vocabulary will consist of around 200 words. By the end of 3 years the toddler’s vocabulary will consist unto 1000 words on average. As the toddler enters nursery school it will improve and enhance more depending on the exposure.
This evolution of toddler’s speech varies in every toddler. As an individual from the cradle to a toddler stage every baby develops differently. Some children are more focused on achieving physical milestones hence they will be busy doing physical activities and start speaking later than the usual kids. Rolling over, crawling, tummy time, holding and walking takes priority over speaking. Mostly they might start speaking by end of 2 years and catch up to their peers from school soon enough.
Whereas some babies will be experts in communication and love to talk to their parents and caregivers, so they start speaking early by 9 months in words and achieve their physical milestones lates than normal kids. If you are concerned about your toddler’s speech it is best for you to discuss this with his pediatrician.
No matter what timeline your toddler is following you can help your toddler speak with a few simple activities and tips. Following the below guideline will help you to encourage your toddler to speak and flourish. These guidelines are very simple to follow and need “YOU” more than any other material stuff.
Talk to your toddler
Children need to understand the language before they learn to speak it. To understand the language they need to hear it often. So speak to your toddler as much as you can and encourage your toddler to speak by asking simple questions. Whenever you are doing something tell them what are you doing. For example, while folding laundry tell them you re folding mommy’s dress or daddy’s shirt and trousers. You can also name the colour of the clothes. While they are playing name the toys, while bathing the name their body parts, while cooking give them a step by step explanation of what you are cooking and what ingredients are you adding.
Sometimes you might feel like you are having one sided conversation, keep talking even if your toddler is not understanding completely. All of such conversations are getting registered in their brains for future use.
One thing you should take care of is do not keep chattering away whole day just to expose your child to a language. You need to provide them some “ME time” too were they will be able to listen to their own voice. They might want to focus on the environment around them and start exploring without your continuous commentary. You should look for signs of boredom like looking away from you when you are talking or agitation signs like they want to do something else. This is your cue to stop because you might be causing auditory overload.
Read & Sing
One of the best investment for your toddler would be “Books”. You need to read a lot of books to the right from their beginning months. Read simple picture books with large images when you start early. While reading to a toddler you must use your animated voice to spike their interest. Stop and describe a picture in the book. Let them choose the book they want to read with you. You need to pay close attention to what interests them more and use more of such books to enhance their vocabulary.
Toddlers love to read the same book again and again. They might even want to read it 10 times in a row. Do it. Repetition of same story or same words again will increase their vocabulary. They will normally associate repetition of words or stories as a way of learning.
Singing to them has equal amount of importance when it comes to encouraging your toddler to speak. You can sing songs if you know. You can also sing simple rhymes with actions and expressions. Involve actions like clapping hands, waving hands etc to pique their interest. You need not be a great singer, your toddler will listen to your sing even if you are the worst of the singers (lovely little people!!).
If you can play an instrument, it is best kind of exposure to music. Sing along with the music. It will not be long before your toddler joins you in the singing. Again repetition will enhance their vocabulary so you can sing the same songs and rhymes again and again without any worries.
There are thousands of words in a language and your toddlers needs to learn them one at a time. Best thing you can do to make your toddler speak those words is to label everything you see. Suppose you are walking on the street name everything you see e.g. a red car, “look at that tree”, a dog etc. Even in the house you can name the things around like sofa, chairs, table, books, pen etc. While putting on their clothes name they body parts. While reading a book label everything in the pictures e.g. green grass, a big cow, a hut etc. This will continue for as long as they do not know everything.
You will find it that children are very curious and “What is this?” is their favourite question. Please make sure you always answer this question or if you do not know let them know that you will learn it yourself and then tell them. This will help continue their curiosity forever in their life.
No baby talks
Baby talk always interest a baby. Because they always have fun when you talk to them with a lot of intonations and a variety of sounds. But as they enter toddlerhood and they begin to grow it is time to stop the baby talk on your end. You need to talk to them like grown ups so they know how grown ups speak and communicate. They need to learn how a word sounds.
As they are learning their words might still sound like baby talk and sometimes so cute that you feel like mimicking those words. But refrain yourself from doing that and rephrase their words with proper pronunciations. Hearing you speak clearly and definitely will help in toddler’s language development and encourage the toddler to speak clearly just like you.
Widen their experiences
Children in the first 3-5 years of their lives are like sponges, soaking up everything. Every experience, every sound, every single thing around them stimulates them. It is crucial to regularly stimulate their senses with different textures, sounds, smells, vision by talking about it to them. Even before toddlers start talk they start to build their vocabularies, collection of words and concepts around them. This all goes on subconsciously by observation and consciously for things they need like food, water, go out to the park etc.
It is very important that you expose the child to a variety of environments like taking them out when you shop for groceries or vegetables explaining the color they see and naming everything. Taking them to children libraries and showing them books to the things they see regularly. For example, a book about animals and reminding them of the time they saw the animals in the book.
You can help them understand simple concepts like wet and dry with a towel example, high and low, hot and cold with a warm water and refrigerator, big and small etc. These simple concepts with example experiences will help them understand and grasp the surrounding around them. These experiences will help the toddler’s speech.
Always be ready to listen to your toddler’s talk
Toddler generally love to talk even when there is no one listening to them. But there are times when they direct their speech at you or someone. You should make sure to listen to your toddler when they are directing the conversation at you. They love being heard and being paid attention to all the time. It is very important to give your toddler the respectful attention he deserves.
So when your toddler is speaking to you, stop whatever you are doing, make eye contact and listen to them without any distractions. Keep your phone aside, do not read newspaper or make conversation with anyone else when your toddler is speaking to you. Even of you do not understand what your child is saying you can acknowledge him with nods and encouraging him with words like “Is that so? Or Go on etc”. This will help them learn the act of listening which is very important for them in future.
Sharpen hearing senses
Sharpening your toddler’s hearing senses will help them understand the sounds and understanding in how to make and differentiate between different sounds that make up a language. It is very important for toddlers to hear you talk or hear big words and build up their vocabularies.
But it is equally beneficial to sharpen their hearing sense by making them listen to sounds of birds, crickets and other sounds in nature. Not only sounds of nature but helping them focus and identify different sounds like a ticking clock, wind blowing, sounds of a cooker whistle, running water, buzzer sounds etc. This will help them improve their focus and concentration as they grow and help your toddler to talk clearly.
Listening to them together will make this a fun time activity for you and your child. It will not be long before your child will start noticing the smallest of sounds and bring it to your attention on his own.
Speak when you are spoken to
There are times when we do not understand what our toddlers are trying to say. Even at such times it is crucial that we listen and reply to them. You can respond by saying “Hmm!! Interesting!!” Or “Is that so ?”. Before crafting your reply try to read you kid’s body language. Is he just trying to make a conversation with you or is he frustrated or needs something but is unable to express it.
Try to guess what he needs by asking if they need something? If they repointing at something ask if they need it e.g. if he is pointing at a toy ask him whether he wants to play with that toy? Is he seems hungry or thirsty, ask him whether he wants snacks or some water? Sometimes you will guess right and your little one will be squealing with delight. But sometimes you might be wrong which might add to your kids frustration. But it is okay as he is learning how to have a conversation , how to express what he needs. Your feedback will motivate the toddler to talk more often.
Time for contemplation and give your toddler a chance to talk
Often mothers always tend to anticipate the child’s needs even before they understand. This might be helpful to avoid frustrations and tantrums but it will not provide any air time for your kids to understand and express his needs. Sometimes anticipation of needs can be the reason why children do not start speaking early.
Also letting your child ask for what he needs will help him understand his own needs like hunger, thirst, sleep etc. This understanding will make them independent and self sufficient. You need to provide them time for contemplation.
Even at these tender ages they think a lot. Toddler minds works in their own beautiful way. For example, let him ask for water when he is thirsty. Soon he will learn to get his own cup and a water bottle and bring it to you when he needs water. In fact he might even get you water at times. Mine surely does tend to fetch me water when I am hurt and sad.
Another reason can be other people talking too much and leaving little time for a new learner to speak. Leave some time for your little one to speak when there are people around and your toddler might actually surprise you with by talking his side of conversation. Giving them a chance to talk will encourage your toddler to speak and teach him how to participate in conversation when there are many people around .
Ask away & repeat everything your toddler talks
It is seen that you can boost your toddler’s language skills by frequently asking them questions. Even if they cannot reply asking them question can help them understand what is being spoken about. You can start with simple questions for the younger ones who can shake their head or answers in yes or no. For example ask them question like “ Do you want to eat something? Are you hungry?” “Do you want this ball?” . As your toddlers grows and there is an increase in his vocabulary you can start asking a little more complex questions like “Do you want to play with a ball or this read this book?” If he answers book ask him about which book he wants to read.
Do not pressurize your kid to answer a question. Let them take the initiative and if they do not feel like answering your question, answer for them. It is also a good stimulation to repeat everything they say with feeling. For example when he chooses to play with a ball say “Oh! You want to play with this ball. Come lets have fun!! “.
When your toddler starts talking to make conversation show interest by asking more detailed questions like “ Do you want to go out and play in the park?”. Wait for an answer but do not press for an answer. Always make sure you are speaking animatedly with feelings and emotions to maintain they interest. Kids generally tend to get bored of a same toned voice and conversation which in turn will encourage your toddler to speak in the same animated way.
Keep it simple
Your toddler has just started learning English or any other language since a few months. So please keep it simple!! Yes their vocabulary is building but at a slow rate with simple words which they need to use daily. Speaking complicated sentences or words might make them confused. Fast and furious will jumble everything and can also make them cranky! You need to speak slowly, distinctly and clearly for their brains to register the words and store them for the later use.
Become the translator
Many a times only the parents tend to understand child’s gibberish talks. When other people cannot understand their talks, it tends to frustrate them. You need to act as translator in such cases. You might need to translate what the toddlers needs to the people he is talking to or vice versa. But there is no hurry let both the parties try to make an effort to understand each other. When things become too hot you might need to step in. Step in when asked for.
Applaud the efforts
If you have noticed toddler likes it a lot when people around them applaud them for their achievements even the simplest ones like saying “Mama” or “Dada”. Become a cheer leader for your child and always appreciate their efforts. Whenever they say something right or label a picture in the book right, praise them with a few positive praise words like “Well done!! Bravo”. But make sure you are not over doing it because they might doubt your sincerity and become overwhelmed.
Limit criticism and support free toddler speech
It might be little too much for you to expect your child to start speaking too much in a very small time. You need to give them time and environment where they can learn to speak. You should encourage your toddler but not push them to speak. Toddler nature is to resist as much as they are being pushed. Excess pressure and expectation may even push them to not speak at all for a long time. Instead lack of any kind of pressure and motivation from parents will encourage your toddler to speak more often.
Also toddlers will not be able to get some pronunciations or labels right at this stage. Do not criticize them when they misspell a word or label the picture wrong instead rephrase their sentence with correct pronunciations. For them to learn how to speak correctly they need a positive environment with exposure to normal and correct speech.
A certain words they might hear you say it but they will not understand the meaning of those words until they start their school.
Audio stories in the background
You will get a lot of audio stories available online in English or in any regional languages you prefer. Sometimes you can just leave them in a room with their toys and play those stories around them. Listening to different language stories will encourage your toddler to speak in many different languages. This will enhance their vocabulary and they will subconsciously learn the art of story telling. It won’t be long before your toddler surprises you with his own version of the story. Children have vivid imagination and this activity might help them articulate their imagination into words.
Language development is not a sure sign of intelligence; children who are alert and responsive and have plenty of verbal stimulation at home can also be because of genetics rather than intelligence.
If your toddler’s language development is well within the normal range or a little slower than average you need not worry. Even if the toddler is a little slow, once the toddler is put to nursery school they tend to start speaking soon. If your toddler is way beyond the normal range or your intuition says that there is some problem in your toddler’s language development you need to get it checked up with his pediatrician.