Learn some basic ways you can help build your child’s language skills in everyday ways: talking and reading.
Parents want their children to grow and develop on target. Language is one of the most important skills mastered in the toddler years. While children all have their own individual timetable for speech and language, the home environment still possesses much influence.
Reading is one of the biggest ways to boost language skills. But if you’ve ever tried to read a 14-page storybook to a three-year-old, you know it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Here are a few tips for reading with your toddler to encourage language development.
1. Choose a book with big clear pictures and not much type.
2. If your child insists on a longer book, learn the art of paraphrasing as you go. Develop your own Reader’s Digest Abridged versions of the story. Use short sentences with action.
3. Make it interactive. Don’t read from cover to cover and then ask your child questions.
Stop frequently, probably every page for toddlers, to ask questions about what they see, what they think will happen, and such. You’ll find them sitting longer for stories when they get involved in the telling.
4. Let them have favorites. Sure, you’ll be tempted to hide the Barney book after the two-hundredth reading, but the familiarity of the story builds language skills in your child. They develop memory and predicting skills, and every time they are exposed to new words they catch on a bit more.
5. Play hide-and-seek story time. “Where is the spider in this picture?” “What is David wearing on his head?” “What did Lilly drop in this picture?” “What’s funny on this page?”
6. Go from simple labeling activities like above, to describing action. “What is the spider doing?” “What will Grandpa use that rake for?” “Why did Beth get the crayons?”
7. Make up your own stories, modeled after your child’s favorites, inserting their favorite character into the story; your child, of course! Let them help you write the story by giving them specific cues such as, “What color were the shoes?” “Billy left his _____ on the table?”
8. If your library has a toddler story program, get involved. If it doesn’t, be brave and take your toddler anyway. Libraries aren’t dusty stodgy places where children are scowled at. The children’s section will likely have comfy chairs, perhaps puppets or a computer just their size, and plenty of places for little hands to safely explore. Make sure your child associates reading, books and libraries with fun!
9. Give books as gifts or rewards. This assures their presence as important items.
10. Let your child see you read often. Nothing makes a toddler more tempted to do something than to see Mommy or Daddy doing it.
Talking is something you do quite a bit with a toddler. But you can make sure you are using these opportunities to the fullest by trying the following ideas.
1. Talk about what you’re doing and why to your little one, even if you think it’s boring. It’s all new when you’re two!
2. Ask plenty of questions, and most importantly, listen for the answers.
3. When your toddler is excited to tell you something, show you are excited to hear it. Put down the laundry, sit beside them and look into their eyes. They may keep talking and talking, just because they have such a good audience. That’s what you want!
4. Don’t feel compelled to fix their speech mistakes. They usually make mistakes that show how much language skill they have learned already. For instance, adding an “s” to make a plural even if the word is man. They picked up the basics of the grammar, they will refine it in time. So let it slip if they say, “I doed it.” “I runned all the way.” What they say, and that they are saying it to you, are the important things to focus on now.
5. Don’t finish the sentences or thoughts for a stammering toddler. It tells them that you don’t think they can finish or you are too impatient to wait. Those are not the messages you want to send.
6. Take them to all kinds of places, the grocery, the park, the zoo, to pay bills, to get gas. Then talk to them about everything they see. Answer their questions without appearing frustrated, even if it is the 600th time they’ve asked that particular one.
7. Play games with your child. Most games develop language skills at least indirectly. Make up your own if you feel brave. They don’t have to be polished or elaborate. Guessing games and riddles are loved by little ones everywhere. Let them make up games for you.
8. Don’t be afraid to use some bigger vocabulary here and there. If you do it just right, your child will begin to pick up the meaning from the way you used the word. That’s a great tool in your toddler’s language toolbox.
9.Listen. Listen. Listen. If you give your toddler half a chance, you’ll get plenty of opportunity.
10. Answer the “why?”s. All of them, always. Sure, they can be annoying, but how else will your child learn? And isn’t it great that your toddler gets to learn all this from you? Plus, you’ll want to write down the really hard ones to ask grandparents. Chances are they’ve heard them before.
Language is one of the most exciting skills a toddler works on during these early years. With it they express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and personality. What a privilege to be a part of such an awesome process.