Whether your child chatters away to themselves in a language only they understand, or whether they are the quiet type and save their words for the rarest of occasions, there are times when every parent wonders about their child’s speech development.
While checking guidelines as to how the speech should be developing at each stage and trying to monitor your child’s vocabulary might help you gain a better idea of where you child is developmentally, it is much more useful (and enjoyable) to simply make the most of some clever ideas on helping your toddler to communicate. Most children will talk in their own time, but if you have a reason to believe that your child is lagging behind and you are concerned, then speak to your health visitor or doctor who can investigate or give you peace of mind.
Describe, Describe, Describe
One of the best ways you can get your child talking and improve their vocabulary is to embark on a journey of description! So if you are walking through town, instead of pointing out a car or bus, ask your toddler if they can see the blue car, or tell them to look at the big green bus. By adding an adjective, you are subtly increasing your child’s vocabulary and teaching them important new ideas.
Asking your toddler questions is a great way to get them chatting and it is easy to get them using new words using questions as a technique. This means talking about how you feel about something in a way that makes new words clear and communicating meaning to the child before asking what they think. So for example, tell your toddler, “I really like sitting on the nice soft grass. The grass is lovely to sit on because it is soft…” then ask, “Where do you like to sit?” or “How does this grass feel?”
Your toddler will be much more inclined to talk when they see you reacting positively to what they have to say. So listen. It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to tune out and not really take in what your little one is saying, especially if much of it sounds like nonsense. Listen, try to understand and then respond. It really helps if, instead of correcting a poorly pronounced word, you repeat the phrase with the correct sounds. So for example, if your child says “The gog says woof”, instead of telling them that they have said it wrong, simply repeat the phrase correctly, “Yes, the DOG says woof!”
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Reading to your child is one of the best ways to teach them about intonation and sentence structure as well as increasing the vocabulary. Introduce new books and stories regularly and ask your child questions about what you have read. “Do” the voices, add in your own details and enjoy the story – not only will you be setting them up for life with a love of books, you will also be bonding with your child and helping them develop a rich sense of language.
Using Real Words
Most of us are ‘guilty’ of using baby talk in the course of talking to our child. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with baby talk – in small doses! Speak naturally to your child and they will respond using ‘real words’. Anyway it’s probably inevitable that they will be using text speak a lot at some point in the future!
It’s not a race. If you’re used to speaking like the tongue-twister twins from Bosco, then there’s a good chance your child won’t pick up a lot of what you’re saying. It’s best to slow your speech down so he can understand everything you are saying. there’s a chance that he will be focusing intently on your lips as you speak and speaking too fast may hinder his understanding.
Above all, be patient and enjoy all the new words your little one will be surprising you with.