Here’s one good reason to chat it up with your toddler: Researchers say kids who are spoken to more often as babies and toddlers have far better language skills than those who hear fewer words. Check out the tips below to get the conversation going.
Follow her lead.
Whenever your baby or toddler gestures, vocalizes or maintains eye contact with you, she’s actually communicating. Join in by turning your attention to the object (or person) that captures her interest. Respond to her cue and say, “Yes, that’s your rattle!” Don’t stop there though—extend the back-and-forthing. Lift a rattle and say, “See what happens when I shake it?” Hand her the rattle and ask, “Would you like to shake it too?” Encourage your toddler to explore the rattle while you describe it (talk about it’s color, sound, shape, and so forth). Your little one’s non-verbal communication and mini-sentences set the foundation for language and learning. Support her efforts to talk, but don’t stress her.
Pump up the volume.
Scientists say it’s the sheer number of words you share with your toddler that give him an edge later. One landmark study found children who hear more words on a daily basis process language more quickly and have larger vocabularies by the time they are three than do children who hear fewer words during the same period.
Get into the habit of narrating your day—don’t worry if your youngster doesn’t understand the words or you feel awkward. Ruminate out loud while you make dinner. Look at your toddler and say“Let’s see, what can we put in the salad tonight…” On a cloudy day, toss out an observation—and a suggestion. Say “Let’s take an umbrella, it looks like it might rain today.” The words may seem simplistic to you but they are powerful---and they will boost your tot’s language development.
Maintain the focus.
Think of your toddler’s books as vehicles for dialogue, and when you read to her make frequent stops along the way for chatter. If she seems interested in a particular picture, stay with it. When she pauses to observe a dog or ball, identify them for her. Be descriptive. Point to a lamb on a page and offer your own observations. “Yes, the lamb’s fur does look fluffy!” Don’t put her on the spot or quiz her. Aim for relaxed, comfortable conversation.
Ditch the screen time.
Research shows that a kid’s vocabulary benefits only from hearing real human voices in real time—not voices on TV or other screens. If you have things to do, just talk while you go about your business. Think out loud. Look at him and say, “Okay, time for that grocery shopping list.” Your words, and the ones he hears from others around him (even if they’re not explicitly child-directed), count toward the high number of words you’re going for. So feel free to just chatter.