Your toddler’s language will start to ‘explode’ soon, although your child has been learning about words, sounds and back-and-forth conversations since birth.
To develop language and conversation skills, toddlers need many opportunities to talk with each other, an adult, one on one and in groups. It’s a cumbersome task to engage toddlers in conversation throughout the day. Conversations with toddlers are essential because they help children express their thoughts, ideas and ask for help from an adult. Sometimes, it also helps in resolving conflicts.
Let’s create opportunities for children to talk. Here are some great ideas to help you engage with your toddler:
1. Everyday routine: Everyday routine provides rich opportunities for conversation. Talk about your day such as you went to work or cooked, cleaned, picked up groceries from a shop, drove around, ate a healthy meal, took a nap. The everyday routine of a child is going to school. Hence, this can be a great conversation too. Look at the work that they’ve done and ask general questions about it which has either yes/no answers or monosyllabic answers.
For example, if they’ve done the vegetable painting you could ask your child:
1. What is this?
2. Did you do this great work?
3. Wow! Do you like this vegetable?
4. Did your teacher help you?
5. Was your friend able to do it?
Through these answers, you will realize they love to talk and this way you’ll know what the child did at school as well.
2. Outdoor activities: You could take your child for a picture walk. Take a walk in the neighborhood and talk about what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. The smell of poop by the cow is making you uneasy, the sight of two dogs fighting is making you scared, the strong wind is making you feel cold wishing you had covered your ears! Go to a garden and plant seeds together and engage in a conversation.
3. Learning centers: Learning centers can be created at home to offer opportunities for children to collaborate with you and converse. The Block Center (create this by placing Lego or blocks on the carpet/mat) gives children an opportunity to cooperatively design structures that become a railroad station, a construction site, a highway, etc. The Pretend and Play Center (create this by using toys such as the doctor set, kitchen tools, vegetables and fruits) encourages children to act out scenarios in their world, such as taking on the role of a doctor or patient, a restaurant waiter or customer, or a shopper in a grocery store.
4. Reading classics: Read classics such as Cinderella, Goldilocks with intonation and facial expressions. Use open-ended questions to challenge children to “go deeper” as they express ideas.
For example, ask-
1. Why do you think that happened?
2. What will happen next?
3. How do you know?
5. Puppets: Use finger puppets to tell a story. Make it very dramatic and allow your child to contribute to it. For example, the lion and mouse were friends one day. But the lion got annoyed and decided to eat the mouse. How did he eat the mouse? What sound did he make? What did the mouse say? These can become the story that’s finished by your child. Using puppets to create makes it lively and interesting.
6. Imagination to model language: Use your imagination as a strategy to help children build their vocabulary. Become role models for your child. Help him/her express ideas and emotions by example. For instance, you could say, “I was sad when I saw the broken truck. The man had an accident, how does it make you feel?” The child’s response might vary from questioning further to elaborate on the lead.
Express enthusiastic interest in your child’s interests, even if these are not the interests you would choose. This is the surest way to engage children in dialogue, and a first principle of strengthening family relationships.
These are the ways you can help engage and build your toddler’s vocabulary. Implement them to improve your child’s learning experience. This is just the beginning! Enjoy and cherish the ways which enable you to collaborate with your child to help him/her in conversing with you, other adults, and his/her friends.