The toddler years are my most favorite. Your little ones are learning SO MUCH every day and it is so amazing to watch. They are discovering their world around them and learning how to maneuver it. This time of development is also huge in terms of speech and language development. Their infant babbles are now turning into real words and they are going from single words to putting words together. It can also be a challenging time, however, because often times toddlers understand much more than they can say and therefore they can become frustrated sometimes...which can lead to tantrums and tears (for both your toddler and yourself!) So how can you help your toddler learn language and foster a strong communicative bond?
Here are five things you can do to help your child's speech, language and communication development:
Slow DownMy first tip may seem obvious, but slow down. I mean this in a few ways. First of all, life can get busy and we can sometimes sit down at the end of the day and hardly remember what we did because it was all done at lightning speed. Make sure to try to slow down when you can and really talk to your little one during those routines that you often don't even think about. Children learn language in everyday moments. Everyday routines. Diaper changes, bath time, meal time...these are all so routine yet some of the best times to slow down and talk to your child. These are the moments he is learning the most. Also, slow down your own speech. This is especially important if your toddler is struggling with speech and language development. I have met many a parents who bring their child into me for an assessment and they are speaking to me at such a fast rate that I have a hard time keeping up. Though some of this is due to being concerned for their child and nervous about the evaluation, more often than not they admit to me that they often speak very quickly. In this fast paced world full of cell phones, computers, "on demand" TV and such, we are all moving so fast and talking so fast some little ones have a hard time keeping up. So...slow down your pace in life and your speech.
Look at Your Child (And Get Down at His Level)This may seem obvious but when you really slow down (remember how I mentioned that one already?) and take a look at the way you communicate to your little one, you may be surprised how often you throw out language to your child while they are turned away from you or while you are turned away from him. If you want your child to learn language and be a better communicator, you need to take time to slow down, look at your child when you speak, and when possible, get down at his level. This helps your child focus on you and your message. This helps phase out the distractions around him like toys, noise, and other children.
WaitFellow SLP Kim over at Little Stories has a fantastic series on the importance of waiting. In today's world, it seems we expect everything in a millisecond. We carry smart phones that can do a Google search and give us what we want almost immediately. But our kids don't learn language this way. They need us to help them, and they need us to wait. In terms of your little one's communication skills, make sure you take time to wait for your little one to respond to you. When you ask a question of him, wait. When you ask him to do something, wait. Sometimes, we don't realize it but we are not allowing our children to take part in important learning experiences because we are too busy responding and doing for them, rather than waiting to see if they can do/see/say it without us. Read Kim's post at Little Stories to read more about the importance of waiting.
Stop Counting and Start CommunicatingYears ago I was doing an assessment on a sweet little boy whose grandparents took care of him during the day while the parents worked. Both grandparents were present for the assessment as well as the mother. During the interview portion of the assessment (where I try to get to know the family, the child, and the routines of the family) the grandmother proudly told me "We always count the stairs as we go up and down every day. We do lots of letter and number activities and he knows all his shapes and colors!" As awesome as it was that this child could identify all his shapes and colors at age 2 1/2, he could not communicate his basic needs and wants. Yes, he could count well but he wasn't asking many questions to gain information about his environment which means he was missing out on a lot. I know that this is an exciting time in your child's development. They are little sponges that seem to soak up so much. But right now isn't the time they need to master letters, numbers, and shapes. By all means...please expose your child to these things in natural experiences! Let colors, numbers, shapes, counting and letters slowly become a part of his vocabulary but we don't want her vocabulary only made up of these. Instead, remember to communicate about all the things you see in her environment. When she points at things, talk about them. Ask her questions and wait for her answer. Narrate her play sometimes and narrate your own movements. Talk to your child don't just count the stairs.
Rethink Your ToysChildren learn language all day every day through all your normal daily routines. They also learn and use language within their play, which means that it is a good idea to take a look at the toys you have out for your child to play with. I have some general tips for you:
- Get rid of all (or at least most of) the bright colored, plastic toys that light up, talk, and play music. You know the ones....the box says "Encourages Color, Letter and Shape Identification!" and this of the sort. These toys "do" a lot on their own rather than your child doing the doing. I talk about these a bit on my own blog as does Kim over at Little Stories. Check her post on SCLANS and mine on What Your Toddler Really Needs to Learn.
- Make sure you have basic toys that allow for many open ended play opportunities. These toys also allow for many many many more language opportunities than those types of toys I'm talking about above. Some ideas of what I am talking about can be found in my Best Toys for Speech and Language Development Series.
- Consider utilizing a toy rotation in your home. I just started this and wish I had done this YEARS ago. Read more about why you should start your own over at Little Stories.
What do you think? Are you doing these things already in your home? How do YOU encourage speech and language development in your children?
Thanks again Kristina for this fantastic opportunity to guest post here at Toddler Approved!
For more information on speech and language development, you can check out my series on Speech and Language Development: Birth to 5 and my Speech and Language 101 page. If you have a toddler who is struggling with his speech and language development, you might want to check out my How to Help your Child Talk page.
Katie is a a mom to two little ones, E (almost 4) and Ev (21 months) and a licensed and credentialed pediatric speech-language pathologist (when she finds the time). She blogs over at Playing With Words 365, sharing information about speech and language development, intervention strategies, therapy ideas and tips, and shares a little about her family and their life too. You can follow along on Facebook or Pinterest for more speech and language ideas and tips.
PS- Have you entered our Scratch Art Light Box Melissa and Doug giveaway yet?
Hurry before it ends!