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NYS Parent Guide

24-36 Months: Growth and Development

You and Your Terrific Two-Year-Old

Communicating With Your Child

Communicating With Your Child

This is a year of language explosion. Your toddler understands many more words than he can say. The number of words he knows and uses is directly linked to what he hears.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Talk with your toddler—about anything and everything. Talking back and forth with you gives him the opportunity to hear language, think about the meaning of the words and practice expressing (saying) words in response to what he hears.
  • Expand on what your toddler says. At first he may say one word (“car”) or link two together (“race car”) as he pretends to race his car. You support his language learning when you add to what he says: “Yes, that is a race car…a shiny, blue race car and I bet it goes really fast!”
  • Give your toddler simple one-step directions. For example: “Will you please get me the truck book?”. Once you see that your toddler can usually follow one-step directions, begin to try two step directions: “Will you please put the truck book back and bring over your red truck?”
  • Ask lots of “what”, “where” and “why” questions. “What are you doing?” “Where are you going?” “Why do you think the little girl in the picture is sad?” are great conversation starters. Keep your questions simple. And give your toddler time to think. It’s not his answer that matters, but the back-and-forth of the conversation with you!
  • Teach the meaning of words through actions. Continue to talk about what you see your toddler doing as she is doing it. Sing songs that require actions, such as “the Wheels on the Bus” or “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap You Hands!” Use actions to describe words such as “twirl” and “stretch.”
  • Expect lots of mistakes in how words are said. Toddlers and even preschoolers make many mistakes in language expression and some are quite cute. Most of those mistakes will correct themselves with practice. For example, most older toddlers might say “I goed to bed”…rather than “I went to bed.” It is best not to correct your child. Instead, model the right words: “That’s right, you went to bed.”
  • Read, read, read and explore books with your toddler! Read short and simple books. Read his favorites again and again. While it might be boring for you, he feels proud and competent because he knows what is coming next. Ask simple questions about the book and listen for his answer. Connect the pictures in the book to objects in the room and people and places he knows.
  • Last, but not least: keep tabs on what you say. Are you always saying “no” and telling her what she can’t do? Or are you showing her how much she knows and can do? Try, “You are figuring it out” or “Try again.” Only you can decide if your language is opening doors for her or shutting them— and if some changes are needed in how you respond.
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Did you know

The way parents and caregivers talk to children has a significant effect on the child’s I.Q., literacy and academic success later in life. The frequency and quality of words a child hears during her first three years of life are critically important in shaping language development. HART AND RISELY, 1995