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How to Help Your Toddler Learn to Speak

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The human brain is an amazing supercomputer, and how babies learn language is even more amazing. In just two short years, babies can amass a vast vocabulary that allows them to communicate effectively with their parents and other children and adults. Boosting your toddler’s language skills is a matter of knowing how to accelerate this learning and give him the tools he needs to communicate well. 

Talk to Your Toddler

The main way toddlers learn language is through interactions with speaking adults. Talking to her will allow her to practice her language skills and improve on pronunciation and grammar. Talk to your toddler even before she is able to respond. Talk to her when you are preparing her food. Tell her how you are cutting her vegetables or explain how to open a jar of applesauce. Talk to her when you’re changing her diaper. Tell her what brand you prefer, ask her to remain still while you’re changing her or ask if she feels “all clean” in her new diaper. Having one-sided conversations with a non-verbal baby may feel strange, but keep it up anyway. You’re giving your baby exactly what she needs for enhanced vocabulary and language learning. 

Read to Your Toddler

Reading to your baby is one of the best ways to help a toddler speak. Reading reinforces language and helps him to learn how words represent images. It doesn’t matter what you read. Toddlers enjoy children’s books, but you can also read magazines, the newspaper, sales circulars or brochures. What matters most is that you are reading and encouraging your baby to develop a love of reading. Make reading a daily activity that your toddler will look forward to. Read at bedtime or first thing in the morning. Make reading an event. Let your toddler pick the book or reading material. Encourage your toddler to pretend to read to his toys or the family dog. Encourage your older children to read to the baby as well. Studies have shown that children whose parents read to them develop better language skills than those that don’t. 

Refrain from Baby Talk

While it is tempting to talk “baby talk” to your toddler, avoid doing so if you want to encourage him to talk. Toddlers typically don’t know the difference between this specialty speech and regular speech and this can make it harder for him to learn proper language. While it can be cute and endearing when they mispronounce words, leave the baby talk to them. You don’t need to correct them every time, but be sure to respond in the correct way. If they ask you to help them put on their “boops,” respond, “sure, I’d love to help you put on your boots,” for example. 

Expand on their Vocabulary

By the time your child is three years old he likely knows between 50 and 100 words. Help your toddler learn to speak by expanding on these words. When they see a dog and say, “dog,” try saying, “yes, there’s a big brown dog.” When your toddler points to and names an object, encourage him to use articles, verbs and adjectives to fill in the gaps. When he says, “me potty,” respond with, “Do you have to use the potty?” By responding to them in full sentences, you will help them to expand their language skills. When introducing new words, use hand gestures to convey meaning and help with retention. 

Offer Choices

Another way to help your toddler improve his speaking skills is to offer choices. “Would you like to wear your blue shoes or your red ones?” Not only is he getting new information about vocabulary, he’s forced to respond, repeating what you said and connecting language to the object. If he selects the red shoes when he really wanted the blue ones, he knows that he made an error and will self-correct. When you hear your toddler speaking in correct, full sentences, reward him with positive reinforcement. 

Limit Screen Time

Too much screen time can limit your toddler’s ability to speak, even if he is viewing educational content. Limit screen time to one hour per day for children between two and five, and less than an hour for toddlers younger than two. Screen time can actually make it harder for your toddler to learn to speak, as video programming is easier to consume. Face to face interaction that involves the give and take of speaking is challenging and forces the brain to create new pathways. Videos encourage the child to be passive, not giving back anything in exchange for entertainment. 

When it comes to helping your toddler learn to speak, the key is regular interaction that enhances learning. By talking to your child, reading to them and helping them to learn language, they will start speaking sooner and develop lifelong communication skills. The brain starts working as soon as the baby is born, so start using these techniques immediately. 

You can learn a lot more about toddlers, babies and parenting at DadsAgree.com. This handy website offers tips and tricks that you can use to give your baby the best possible future. 

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