Now that your toddler has a sneaking suspicion that no one understands the gibberish she’s been speaking, she is ready to put more effort into learning the language everyone else speaks. Because children learn to speak by listening, she already understands much more language than she can speak. She will master the language more quickly if you help with activities geared toward improving her language skills in specific areas, like letter pronunciation and building her vocabulary. In no time at all she will be chatting so much you will wonder why you ever wished she would speak more.
Toddler Language Development
Toddlers speak their first words at about 12 months old and begin to combine real words with a little leftover babble. By the time a child is two years old, he is typically using phrases and two- to three-word sentences. He can follow two-step directions, point to what he wants and name it, and use about 50 words. His second and third years are periods of rapid language development, so your toddler is taking in a lot of information. You’ve probably experienced his frustration when he can’t make you understand what he is saying. His G sounds sound like T sounds, and the word “milk” sounds like “muck.” He’s working really hard, but he could use a little help.
Talking is important to help toddlers learn language. Talk often to your toddler, speak clearly and use the proper words for objects. If she points a toy, ask if she wants the car. If she says “drink,” ask if she wants milk. Explain what you are doing in a running commentary to keep her interested in talking. Teach new words by asking her to point to objects, such as body parts, siblings and household items. Ask her to tell you about her day and engage in conversation so she can listen and speak. Playing and talking with other children also helps improve language skills.
Read to your toddler every day and reread his favorite book over and over again. Use books with pictures and pop-ups so you can point to and name the items. Read books that have simple stories and rhymes. Talk about what is going on in the pictures. Encourage your toddler to tell you a story using the book. KidsHealth calls this “pretend reading,” and your toddler will love using his imagination and his vocabulary.
Songs and Games
Songs are a fun activity to help children improve language skills and develop the rhythm of speech. Sing songs like “Itsy-Bitsy-Spider” that include fun actions your toddler can perform while singing. Songs with lyrics that repeat help children remember the words. Make up songs using words she knows. Play word games to help your toddler practice pronunciation. Repeat the repetitive sounds your young toddler makes and add new sounds. Teach her a few rhyming words and have fun making up silly sounds that use difficult letters.