Although maturation dictates when children will be able to talk, parents are crucial partners in helping to develop language skills. The
To spur your child's language development, verbalize your thoughts whenever your toddler is around, not just when you have something specific to say, like “Let's get your coat. We're going out now.” Instead, try this: “It's about time to run errands. Let's see, I need to pick up some food for dinner, but where did I put my coupons? Oh, here they are. And I need to stop at the bank on the way to the grocery store to get some cash. Well, maybe I'll just use the debit card. Okay, let's get your coat. We're going now.”
When parents speak their thoughts aloud in an ongoing, running narrative, youngsters hear words in context and in grammatically correct sentences. They are also exposed to a host of other important information. By hearing a parent think out loud as he gets ready to go to the gym, for example, the child learns how to prepare for this kind of outing, which actually involves quite a bit of planning and organizing:“Where is my gym bag? Oh, it must be in the closet. Oops — I forgot to wash these socks. No wonder this bag smells!” To teach children to think ahead, you need to show them, again and again, task after task, the kinds of things to think about.
As you go through your day, dedicate yourself to helping your child grasp the meaning of individual words. Saying, “Do you want milk or juice?” while holding up a carton of milk and a bottle of juice is a way to teach children that different objects have different names. If your child points to the juice, only to get upset after taking a drink and frantically pointing to the milk, this isn't necessarily a sign he's being negative. He simply may not have learned to associate the word
Some parents have a hard time remembering how very important it is to continue talking to their child when they don't get a verbal response. Parents need to speak directly to toddlers about daily affairs, leaving pauses to teach them about the normal give-and-take of verbal exchanges — no matter that the tykes are still too inexperienced with language to hold up their end of the conversation. For example, you might say, “I was thinking I'd make tuna casserole for lunch. What do you think about that? … No, it looks as though I'm out of tuna. Perhaps we'll have tacos. Would you like tacos for lunch?”
A child's inability to respond with words doesn't mean that nothing is going on. It is quite the contrary. When the parent pauses, youngsters formulate responses in their minds long before they can demonstrate their knowledge by speaking.
Parents can focus their toddler's attention by getting down to their eyelevel and speaking directly to them. For instance, you might say, “We're going to visit Grandma. Do you want to show her your new hat? (Pause.) Come on, let's find your hat.” Even if your tot doesn't know what a “hat” is at the beginning of the conversation, by the time you've said, “Here's your hat. Let's put it on you. It's cold outside. Your hat will keep you warm” (to teach about the purpose of a hat), and later, “Grandma, how do you like Jonathan's new hat? Jonathan, show Grandma your hat,” he should associate the word with the object.
Explaining the World
As you go through your days, concentrate on telling your child about the world. “See the brown truck?” “That's called a stop light. When it's red, all the cars stop.” “This is the aisle where they keep all the cereal.”“The lady who rings up our groceries is called a cashier.” “This yellow flower is a dandelion. See how it tickles your nose?”
And don't forget to repeat yourself … again and again and yet again. Toddlers love repetition. It makes them feel more secure because the world feels more predictable; when they hear about things they already know, it gives them a sense of mastery.