By offering our child choices, we are encouraging them to communicate more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. When you ask a question like “apple or pear”, then have to respond with one of the options. This is a great strategy in building language as you can also extend it to short phrases “big ball or little ball”.
Offering choices also gives your toddler a sense of control – vital at this stage of their development. Remember in some situations where you need to be in control, both the options you give can be ones that you would like them to select anyway. By offering a choice, you both get what you want.
We all know that Yes/No questions are real conversation killers, so avoid using these with your little one too. Instead try to offer your child a choice (“do you want your red socks or blue socks”) or if there is no choice, simply explain what is going to happen next (“we’re going in the car now”).
Repeat, Model and Expand
This is as simple as saying back to your child what they say to you. This tells your child, “that’s right and I’m listening to you”. It encourages them to do it again and again. It provides a correct version of the word for them to hear, process and learn.
For children learning their first words simply repeat back the word to them using the correct pronunciation. If they say “doddie” repeat back “doggie”. For children who are beginning to combine words repeat their short phrase back to them. For example if your child says “daddy gone” you would say “daddy’s gone”.
This is when you demonstrate sounds, words or phrases to your child whilst sharing in an activity. Your child needs to hear a word over and over in context before they understand it and only then will they start using it themselves.
Remember to model at the language level of your child or only slightly ahead. If your child does not have many words, model single words – for example “daddy”, “hot”, “tickle”, “more”, “gone”. If your child is using many single words or starting to put two words together, model simple 2-word phrases such as “daddy’s gone”, “yummy apple”, “big dog”, “tickle mummy”. This technique can be applied as your child’s vocabulary and phrase length increases. Simply model language that is slightly ahead of their current skill level.
This is a combination of the first two techniques in which you repeat what your child has said, but make it slightly longer or more complex. Again it is important to understand your child’s language skill level so that you can expand appropriately. If your child says “daddy?” add an extra word such as “where’s daddy” or “daddy’s gone”. If your child says two words together such as “more banana” add an extra word to make it “eat more banana” or “more banana please”.
Learning to listen is an important communication skill. Children need to learn to listen so that they can learn new words, follow instructions and interact with others. Toddlers love exploring their environment and one way you can encourage them to learn to listen is by pointing out the sounds around them “Oh, I hear a train”, “listen to the birds singing”, “what a noisy truck”, “Oskar’s barking”. This encourages your child to pay attention to the sounds that they hear.
It’s important to turn of the TV or radio when you’re talking with your toddler because they are very easily distracted and may find it hard to ‘block out’ background noise in order to listen to what you’re saying.
Using objects, pictures, gestures, hand signs and facial expression facilitates language learning as you are providing visual information about what you are saying. For most children processing visual information is much easier than processing auditory information.
When you are talking about an apple, show your child the apple. When you are reading a book, point to the pictures that show what you are talking about. If you are upset with your toddler, show them using your facial expression.