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NYS Parent Guide

12-24 Months: Growth and Development

You and Your Wonderful One-Year-Old

Communicating With Your Child

Communicating With Your Child

In these months your toddler will be paying attention to words—in the languages he hears most: apple, bubbles, rice cooker. He’ll listen, begin to understand, then start to talk. At first you may not understand the sounds he makes, but listen—and you’ll hear his first word. It’s an exciting time.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Talk with your toddler—about everything and anything. The more language a toddler hears the better. So talk about what you are doing: “Daddy is bringing your yellow hat in case it is cold outside.” Talk about what you see, eat, play and read together. “There’s Kayda, she’s wagging her tail.” “These cooked carrots are sweet. Do you want some more?” “Get ready. Here comes the blue bouncing ball.” “What does the lion say?” Talk about your day at school or work. Talk about weekend plans. Keep talking.
  • Listen for the sounds and words your child is attempting. Your toddler will make repeated sounds for objects and likely point at what he is trying to say. When he says, ”Duh” and points to a dog walking by, respond by saying, “Yes, I see that dog… he is a small dog!” That way he hears the word “dog” said and used in a sentence. All in less than a minute and without being corrected.
  • Make a running list of sounds and words your child is saying! It is fun to jot down your child’s sounds and first words. You can share the list with anyone else who takes care of him and you will have a running record of how his language develops.
  • Stretch his attempts at spoken language. At first he will say single words, and then he will begin to link two words together. “Play!” and then “mommy play!” You can add to that by saying: “Yes, mommy is playing with you and we are making this shiny green truck go.” This introduces him to new words and invites him to take turns talking back and forth with you.
  • Repeat the words your child is trying to say. Criticizing and correcting can discourage a new “talker”. Learning language is not easy. It takes lots of time, practice and repetition.
  • Read a story. Then read it again. And again if he asks. You are helping him develop vocabulary and understand new words. Point occasionally to the words on the page as well as the pictures. You are showing him that these marks on paper stand for letters and words.
  • Rhyme away. Read rhymes. Say rhymes. Sing rhymes.
  • Know when to be quiet. A break gives your child the time he needs to process what he is hearing and saying. Look for clues when your child has had enough. For example, is he looking down, looking away, turning to play quietly? He is telling you he needs a little time off from talking.
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Did you know

The greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were three, the higher their IQ and the better they do in school. Listening to language on the TV doesn’t help your toddler build his own language and it may actually limit his language. (HART & RISLEY, 1995)