There’s nothing more amazing than watching your toddler begin to speak. For me, my son has been especially intense because he soaks up knowledge, words, and behaviors like a sponge – this can be a bad thing when he’s around people who have some weird or not good habits, but the fact that he’s 2 and almost speaking in full sentences amazes me.
There are certain things that I feel are common sense with young kiddos, but have seen ignored and resulting in a child that doesn’t speak as well. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post – to share what I’ve been doing to help my son’s speech develop more quickly and accurately.
Last night at dinner, he repeated a word that blew me away. My 9-year old says this wrong, but my son doesn’t: Raphael! Crazy, right? He’s also repeating words in German and Spanish as my mom is a translator and knows snippets of several languages and is fluent in German, and he tries really hard to put sentences together… even though he skips some words, but he’ll be there very soon.
A couple of weeks ago, he sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star almost all the way through. I started cracking up because I was so impressed! What a little sponge!
His sisters teach him things on top of me and my fiance teaching him, so he’s getting 4x the instruction compared to an only child… but there are some key things that I like to keep in mind and point out to help kids’ speech develop more quickly and accurately. These things are compiled through personal experience.
NO Baby Talk.
DO NOT speak to your child in baby talk or let other people do it. This is the worst thing you can do for your toddler’s development because they will try to repeat it as they hear it. If you say, “Who’s my wittle handsome man?” you can’t expect your toddler to say, “little.” Making noises at them doesn’t do too well, either, although it is pretty entertaining when they figure out how to growl – growling kids are hilarious =). But they need to know that growling isn’t a good communication method…. unless you’re John Casey, but his are more like grunts than anything else.
Unfortunately, toddlers will copy everything. If they’re exposed to a child who cries loudly to communicate and that works for them, then they will copy it. If they’re exposed to a child who fakes crying and over-exaggerates it greatly, then they will do that. If they’re exposed to a child who repeats swear words after their parents, chances are your toddler will do that, too.
This is why baby talk can be detrimental to your child’s development. What I’ve always done is speak to my kids – even as newborns – like I normally speak, maybe just with a slightly higher pitched-tone. No fake words (although I have always called a diaper, “butt…” so I ask, “Hey, do you need a new butt?” so that’s a little off. But “butt” is still a word, in my defense!), no incohesive babbling, nothing like that. No, “wooosjeewoosjeewoo,” or, “goo goo ga ga,” (and toddlers are too young to know who Lady GaGa is), just plain English (or whatever your native tongue is – or both because small children can learn languages very quickly).
Speaking words clearly – and sentences, especially when they’re beginning to put their own sentences together – helps a great deal in a toddler’s development.
If your toddler knows what they want and tells you when you ask, then ask more questions! My son is a pretty rowdy one, so when he gets a time-out, he gets sent to his room. I put a door knob cover on the inside so he can’t get out unless someone lets him. I know, it sounds a little harsh, but if he were to be able to open his door, he would likely throw the cat litter all over the house, do more artwork on all the walls, and rip up as many books as he could get a hold of. Plus… the best punishment for this little man is to feel trapped. When I used to swat him on the butt or even on the back of the hand, he laughed in my face and hit me back… so this is the happy middle ground.
The reason I bring this up is because my daughter literally just asked him why he was in time-out for a few minutes. The girls had been cleaning their room and one of them started bawling like crazy, so I had my oldest put him in his room for a time-out. Several minutes later, my younger daughter opened his bedroom door and said, “Do you know why you were in a time-out?” and he replied right away, “Hitting!”
He may be a bully, but he’s a smart bully.
Repeat What They Say.
I don’t mean when they tell you, “Milk” you repeat the word. What I do mean is repeating the word they use in a sentence, preferrably in the worm of a yes or no question. For example, let’s say your toddler runs up to you and says, “Mommy! Hungry!” (mine does this all the time… lol)
I always repeat it back to him: “Are you hungry, baby?”
Then he yells: “Yea!”
Simple conversation, but he’s learning about sentence structure without even knowing it. You can make this a habit so easily – not only does it help you to understand exactly what they’re saying, but it also helps your toddler to develop their language skills more accurately and quickly.
Him: “Dog! Pet it!”
Me: “Do you want to pet the dog?”
There are a million different things that this works for, and it’s obviously helping because he’s 2 and weeks away from full sentences. Now if I could just get him to stop being such a meanie….
Whatever the case may be, these are three things that I do consistently to help him develop verbal skills. Other proven and strong methods include reading to your baby, letting them see the words and associate them with what they are as an image (like in, “Your Baby Can Read!”), and singing songs with them.
The only issue I’m going to have is when he gets to the really hard questions like, “What is forensic science?” or “Why do I need to go to college?” By the time those questions hit your influence is weakened and they start to think for themselves…. but maybe, if adequate skills are developed in toddlerhood, the rest won’t be so hard… right? Let’s hope =).