How to Encourage Your Toddler's Language Development
A child's late language development can be worrisome especially for first time moms. Read on to find out how nurturing you child's linguistic skills can be a fun bonding activity.
Worried that your child may be a late talker? Here are some great ways to help nurture your child’s language development while strengthening your special bond.
Engage them in conversation
- Talk to your child using simple, age-appropriate vocabulary. Chat about your day, what you saw in the park, about their rubber ducky as you give him or her a bath.
- Model good listening skills. Allow him to share his own thoughts, too, no matter how simple. Give him the opportunity to lead the conversation.
- Show genuine interest in their thoughts and ideas. To encourage them, ask open-ended questions, avoiding those that lead to basic ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers.
- Repeat and expand. Repeat what your child says, but using different words. This shows that you understand what they said, and you improve their vocabulary by introducing new words or ways of expressing that idea.
Enthrall them with stories
This is a great time to introduce reading as a fun activity, and not something to be endured.
- Make up a story together. Use your imagination to craft stories with fun characters and magical creatures. Ask your child to add his own characters, plot twists and details.
- Use picture books. For younger toddlers, it can be as simple as talking about what you see in picture books. “What animals can you see in the picture? What sounds do they make?”
- Show the connection between written and spoken words. As you read a book out loud, point to the words. This help them connect the sounds to the word and letter.
- Read often. Aside from bedtime, use any waiting time (like sitting in the dentist’s office) as a chance to read a book.
- Bring stories to life. Keep them engaged through animated sounds and voice acting, or take them to storytelling time at the bookstore or library.
Listen to music together
Children love moving their body to the beat. Music is a wonderful opportunity to learn about rhythm, intonation, and pronunciation, while dancing promotes gross motor skills. Repeated sentences in songs can help reinforce sentence structure. Indeed, music makes language-learning fun, even more so with baby drums and mini maracas! Even without instruments or a recording, singing a simple song or a nursery rhyme will do the trick.
Children’s TV shows and computer games may be educational but keep in mind that they do not interact nor respond to children - two important areas in language development.
- Role-playing and acting out stories are wonderful opportunities for using and learning language.
- Interactive games like ‘peek-a-boo’ and ‘show me your nose/ears/toes’ encourage your child to listen, follow instructions, and enjoy reactions.
Explore the world beyond your home
Go out and see, smell, hear and talk about what goes on in and around your neighborhood. Take your child to the local bakery, the park, or grocery and visit children’s museums and exhibits. New environments provide stimulation, which can lead to interesting conversations, while learning more about what interests your child.
When milestones are delayed
As your child rapidly expands his or her vocabulary, remember that language development does vary considerably between children. What seems to be a ‘delay’ may not even be a cause for concern.
However, there are general milestones that indicate normal and healthy development, and language delays in the early years may indicate issues such as a hearing problem, developmental delays in other areas, and in some cases, autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Here are some signs of language delay that you can look out for in your child:
- At 12 months old, your child does not use sounds or words when he or she needs help or wants something
- At 2 years old, your child’s vocabulary is limited to 50 words. He does not combine words into simple phrases
- Your child suddenly stops talking, or using words he already knows
- Your child strongly prefers to play alone, and tunes others out
- Your child does not notice or react when you are in the room
- Your child notices some noises like car horns, but not when you call his or her name
- Your child can run through his or her ABCs, numbers, and TV jingles but can’t combine words to ask for what he or she wants
- Your child uses words or phrases that aren’t expected in particular situations, or repeats scripts from TV
In such cases, it would be best to speak with your child’s pediatrician for guidance or seek help from other trained professionals such as a reading specialist or a speech and language therapist.
About The Writer
A third-culture kid, Andrea grew up in a small expat community in West Java, Indonesia. Early on, she knew that her education and career would involve working with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Armed with an International Relations degree, Andrea has experience in the areas of marketing communications, cultural affairs and diplomacy, and has done development work in Mindanao and Cambodia. Currently, she works in a human resources role in a global affairs organization. Andrea lives in Manila with her musician husband and 15-year old daughter.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.