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Teaching Your Toddler to Talk

Teaching your toddler to talk can be tough on the old ego especially if your child is around eighteen months and barely saying Mama or Dada. The stress of it can especially increase when you are around other toddlers their age that are whipping out three word sentences. Don’t let this get the best of you though; there is hope. Instead of trying to push forward and indulge your little sweetie by describing everything the two of you encounter in the greatest detail, take a few steps back and watch language come to life.

Begin with the Concrete

If you are telling your tot about every little thing, that is great…Later. Try not to overload their little minds with too much detail; that can come at another time. Right now work on real things, things that they can touch or see. This is where identifiable toys come into play. Grab a block and give it to your child simply saying, “Block.” Let the little explorer feel it and hold it while you say the word a few times. You will be tempted to tell him or her how the block feels, or the color, but stick with the item at hand. It’s a block, a simple, little block. After you have said the word a few times and made eye contact with your child, ask them to say it. It doesn’t matter how you do this, just be sure to be consistent in how you ask them to say something. Try not to clutter your requests with various ways of asking a child to repeat a word. Ask them, “Can you say block?” and then always phrase it that way. Don’t change it by saying, “Block, go ahead repeat it, block.” Find a way to comfortably request that they repeat what you say and then stick with it, or you may confuse your child by not asking in the same way.

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Keep it Simple

This may seem obvious, but parents are always describing so much as they introduce their little ones to new things. By keeping your description to a minimal it will help your toddler identify the item and when you know that they understand what that single thing is you can embellish about what it does. If you are looking at a book on farm animals, point out the picture of the cow, and say, “Cow.” I know that you are excited to teach your child all about the cow, like the colors, the sound it makes, the facts about where milk comes from and so on, but stop. Leave it at cow for now. Also be sure that the books you are reading together have just a few things on a page. If the pages are busy and full of color, the focus might get lost. Check for books with one theme, such as colors and then, again, be sure that there are only a few items of color on each page to teach. A good example might be Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See? Written by, Bill Martin Jr. with illustrations by, Eric Carle. Each page has vibrant color and a picture of an animal allowing you to keen in on one or two things per page.

Add a Few Sounds

After your child can identify and say the word for an animal, try adding sounds. If they can point out a dog and say, “Dog.” Clap, make a big deal out of it, and then say, “A dog says ruff, ruff.” Children naturally find repeating words more interesting. Animals are such an easy target for learning language because they are colorful and usually allow parents to make a fool of themselves. Making learning language fun is half the battle.

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As your child is learning your teaching style, try not to get frustrated. When things seem to be too much for your tight-lipped toddler, take a few steps back; play a game…play their favorite game. Find the laughter, find their little piggies, find them through peek-a-boo, and then try again with the blanket you are using to hide your face. “Blanket, can you say blanket?”