Babies are born with almost no communication skills, except the ability to cry. But by two years of age, toddlers can generally connect words and string them into simple sentences. Here are five easy ways to reinforce communication and increase vocabulary.
Talk, talk, talk– In our busy world, it is often easy to turn on the TV and use it as background noise. As inconvenient as it may be, it is preferable for your voice to play that role. With young children, you can talk about the clothes they are wearing, the foods they are eating, or what they are doing. Be specific and avoid ’empty’ words like here or there. This type of chit chat is a natural way of engaging toddlers in what is transpiring in their environment.
Read, read, read-Carve out a time every day to read to your toddler. My preference has always been to make reading part of their bedtime routine, but any time you can grab private time will work. Reading helps children develop the rhythm and structure of language as they learn new words. Keep in mind that reading is not just a one-way process. It is a wonderful opportunity for you to ask questions and start a conversation that can continue after you have finished the book. Repetitive books like Brown Bear and the Eric Carle series are great for learning colors, shapes, days of the week and action words.
Play, play, play-Playing with your child does not have to be elaborate and it need not involve pricey games. It can be as simple as singing “This little piggy went to market” when you putting on shoes. Or make up songs as you go. As you fill the bathtub with toys, name body parts as you wash. Play blocks or Lego together and as your toddler selects the blue ones, verbalize what you are seeing, “I see you like red blocks. Can you find a blue one?” Play dress up, pretend to make dinner together or feed the animals in the zoo. There are also actual games you can purchase that teach taking turns like Trouble Spot It, Headbanz and Perpetual Commotion which are also a great way to teach and reinforce pronouns.
Name, name, name– Name all the objects in your child’s environment in a meaningful way. Avoid using the words it or that and use specific vocabulary in conversation. As you take your toddler for a walk in the stroller, mention everything by name. Imitate the sound of an airplane flying overhead, the meow of the cat passing by or the motorcycle in the street. Use very expressive tone with lots of hand gestures and facial expressions. If you are more comfortable using picture flash cards, try touch and feel cards.
Applaud, applaud, applaud– Positive reinforcement encourages speech, language acquisition and articulation. So clap, snap, hug or reward any babbling, chatting or appropriate use of words.
What books, games or activities that you have tried? Would love to hear your suggestions.