Is your child 2 years old and not saying much? Do you consider your child to be a late talker? If so, don’t worry! Many parents worry about this. I have some easy ideas for you to try at home today.
We, parents, are always worrying about our children and want to provide them with the best tools to succeed in life. Unfortunately, these tools often cost money and stress and are so NOT necessary! If one more person tries to talk me into signing up my child for the next, greatest toddler class, I will scream!
Therefore, I have gathered my 5 favorite “tricks” to help your toddler learn language at home. Some children learn language easily. They just pick it up. Some children need a little help with this process. Below are some general tips that will benefit all children!
The great news… It doesn’t cost a penny, you don’t have to sign your toddler up for a class, and you don’t have to buy the latest toy or app. All you have to do is play with your child 🙂
Note: These strategies are general and are not here to diagnose or replace any therapy. If you have concerns that your child is significantly delayed in speech or language, please schedule an evaluation with a speech language pathologist. An evaluation will let you know if you have anything to be concerned about, AND, if so, will give you individualized strategies and goals designed specifically for your child.
General Language Tips: Insider Scoop!
1. Talk To Your Child
This may sound like an obvious one, but actually it is not! Starting at birth, you should talk to your child. Even though your child can’t respond, he or she is listening and learning! I promise! As you child grows, continue to talk with him or her. Describe the day and talk about what you or him/her are doing.
The more you talk to you child (not at your child) the more exposure to language he or she receives. The more exposure to language, the more and faster he or she learns. Many studies have been done looking at the amount of language a child is exposed to and their language level. There is a direct correlation! TV, movies and background talking does not count. You must be actually speaking with your child with their full attention to have it count.
Remember, don’t just give your child commands… ”Do this!” “Dont touch that!” If you just give commands, your child is not exposed to a variety of grammatical structures or vocabulary. Additionally, as we all know, children selectively tune out directions :).
2. DON’T quiz
Another mistake that many parents, including myself, make is quizzing your child or asking too many questions. When adults speak with adults, they naturally ask many questions. That is normal. However, when speaking with a toddler who is just learning how to speak, avoid questions!! I challenge you to tally how many questions you ask your child in a 10 minute span. You will be shocked!
Why are questions bad? First, your child may not understand and/or know how to answer the question. Therefore, they won’t learn anything from the communication opportunity. Also, by asking questions, you, the parent, are not modeling new vocabulary or grammatical structures. For how to talk with a toddler, refer to tip number 3.
3. Model Language Using Simple Grammatical Structures
When talking with you child, model language using simple grammatical structures. My rule of thumb is to match the language complexity of your child and then increase it by one or two words. For example, if your child is talking using 1 word phrases, use 2-3 word phrases.
Describe what you are doing. Talk about the day or reminisce about what you have already done.
The other key part to this tip is to provide adequate “wait time” for child to respond, add to, or repeat what you are saying. Some children take much longer to process and respond in a “conversation.” Therefore, don’t talk too much or too fast. Talk using simple phrases and give a long pause to see if your child will say something. If he or she doesn’t, move on. If he or she does, say “good talking” and keep going!
It is that easy!
Play with your child! You don’t have to play with your child all day but do try to find time to get on the floor and play. Children learn best when information, especially language, is presented in a natural and meaningful environment. Nothing could be more natural or meaningful than play time for a toddler!
My advice is to get on the floor with your child. Play with their favorite toys and talk to him or her while playing. Expose him or her to lots of new words and give enough wait time for a response. Also, most importantly, don’t stress and have fun!
5. Limit Screen Time
This is an important one! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 2 years of age and only 30 minutes for children older than 2 years of age. This includes TV, tablets, smartphones, and iPads!
This number can be quite shocking for many parents, including me! However, it is important. Research says that children do not learn nearly as much from screen time (despite all the educational claims from apps and DVD companies!). Also, children’s brains go into “pilot mode” while watching TV. They are not actively learning or thinking. If you think about it, adults watch TV to relax and “turn off” their brain for awhile. Same thing for children; however, their brains are developing rapidly! Cognitively, they need creative free play to make all those good neurological connections important for brain development.
So turn off the iPad and get playing!
Remember, these general tips are just “good practice” for parents. If your child needs a boost learning how to talk, try a few and see how it goes!