Babies, even before they are born have an inbuilt curiosity and interest in human voices. They instinctively want to listen to and concentrate on sounds especially human voices. When you are thinking about how you can encourage your toddler to develop his speech remember this in-built instinct he naturally has.
Talk directly to your toddler as often as you can. Look at him when you are talking so he can see your facial expressions and your gestures. He will get more repetition and explanation when he is alone with you rather than when you are reading to him and another sibling for example.
Talk through the things you are about to do and actions you are making. “OK, let’s go and make lunch, we are going to have carrots and peas and some pie, would you like that?” or when you are taking your toddler for a bath or dressing him say things like, “right, let’s take your jumper off, over your head!” as you take it off and “one sock off, two socks off, wiggle those toes!” By matching your words with your actions your toddler will begin to understand what things mean.
Mirror what you are saying with your facial expressions. When you want a hug from your toddler look at him when you smile and say, “Come here gorgeous boy, Mummy wants to give you a cuddle”. It does not matter that your toddler does not understand every word you say, he will soon associate your overall communication with certain things and actions. If you are about to have dinner, let him see you putting the plates and cups on the table and say “It is dinner time now”. He will soon know what this means and will head to his high chair. Putting tasks, activities and things in context for him will aid him to understand the meanings of things.
The way you express things by your emphasis on words and sentences can make learning to talk more exciting for your child. Certainly your excited expression about seeing a boat or a plane will catch his attention as will your soft, caring expression do when you are stroking a pet. Lots of expression and enthusiasm will motivate your toddler to speak himself and understand what you are saying.
It is important that your child understands that all talking is communication. It will not help him if you talk to yourself or mutter under your breath. He will think that talking can just be meaningless sounds and may not respond to you when you are waiting for him to. If you do not answer him or another family member when they are trying to communicate with you, again he will not understand the importance of talking.
Another good tip during the process of encouraging your little one to speak is to not to have talking on the radio as background noise all day. It is better to have music playing softly. If you are listening to someone speaking on the radio let your toddler see that you are listening and hearing meaningful communication.
You are your child’s interpreter. You understand his language and strangers may not. Your toddler will also understand you much more easily than other people, especially strangers.
By Eirian Hallinan