Top 10 Tips for Talking to your Toddler

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Children have an amazing ability to communicate and they learn from what is happening around them. This learning happens from the day they are born. Children learn words by hearing them again and again. Then, when they are ready, they have a go at saying them back at you. Even if the sounds aren’t crystal clear, just having a go at imitating your speech is good for language development.

If you are the person they see every day, you are the main person from whom they will learn to communicate. So knowing how important you are for their language development, here are my Top 10 Tips for Talking to your Toddler!

1. Minimise background noise

Turn off the TV and the radio. Toddlers are still learning to listen so they will find it much harder than you to tune out background noise.

2. Use eye contact

If you want your little one to look at you when you are talking, look at them when they are talking too. When you’re little, everyone looks really tall too, so don’t be afraid to be on the same level as your little one – whether it be sitting at the table or lying on the floor.

3. Let your toddler lead

Let your child take the lead and talk about what they are interested in, things they are playing with and what they are looking at. Try not to insist on them following your idea. We know toddlers love playing with the wrapping paper more than that amazing new toy!

4. Talk to your child when you are playing together

Talk about things as they happen, e.g. while unpacking the shopping, having a bath or drying the dishes. It will give your child a model of everyday vocabulary.

5. Read to your child

Spend time exploring books. You can talk about the pictures, ask them questions about what they think might be happening, have them ‘read’ the lines they know from the book or act out the story. Remember to have fun! Children who are read to every day and learn to love books have better literacy outcomes later on.

6. Have a conversation, not a quiz!

Have a conversation with your toddler, comment on what they are looking at but try not to interrogate them. Instead of saying, ‘what’s that?’ try ‘Oh that bag looks heavy, I wonder what is inside…’

7. Use the ‘Plus One’ rule

Copy what your child says but add one more word on. This teaches your toddler how to expand their sentences. If they say, ‘big dog’, you can say ‘yes, big fluffy dog’. For example, if they ask for ‘apple’ you can say ‘more apple.’

8. Say it back the right way

If your child incorrectly says a word, or their grammar is wrong, model it back to them the right way. Asking them to constantly correct themselves can be very discouraging. If they say ‘I goed to my friend’s house’, you can say, ‘Yes, you went to your friend’s house.’

9. Special Time!

Set aside 20 minutes of Special Time with your little one each day. Use this as a quiet time without interruptions to play with toys and look at and talk about picture books. Try putting your phone away – those messages and status updates can wait!

10. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Oh, did I mention to repeat? New words need to be repeated at least 5 times in context within a short space of time so that children have plenty of opportunities to learn the new words. For example, ‘Look there’s a truck, a big truck, the truck is going so fast! What a nice red truck. Truck is gone! Bye bye truck!’