A Guest Post by Amanda (Karas) Gerson MS, CCC, SLP, TSSLD
The moment you’ve been waiting for. You cannot wait to hear your child’s voice and for your toddler to start talking. You want your toddler to talk so you ask them questions such as “What’s this?” and “What’s that?” but your child doesn’t answer you. Maybe your child stares at you or walks away and you’re left wondering, “Why won’t my child talk to me?”
Getting your child to talk is different than you think. It does not involve asking your child to say a certain word (say “mama”, say “dada’, say “milk”) or asking several questions. When toddlers are asked many questions, this can actually cause them to do the exact opposite. Your toddler may avoid talking altogether. They may not have the words yet which could explain their silence.
Questions are important but asking more questions will not lead to your toddler talking more. It is recommended to focus on comments and descriptions versus only asking questions. By reducing the amount of questions, you ask, you are taking the pressure and demands off of your toddler to talk.
Remember this doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, it just means that for every question you ask there should also be at least 3 comments before you ask the next question.
1. GET YOUR TODDLER TALKING BY GIVING CHOICES
Giving choices is extremely powerful for children because it provides them with the possible words to use. Choices also give children a sense of control. You can offer choices during meal time, bath time, play time, reading time and the list goes on.
When giving choices, place the items near your face so that your child can see the items as well as your mouth movements.
2. GET YOUR TODDLER TALKING BY NARRATING!
Channel your inner newscaster or sports caster for this one. Narrate what you are doing and what your child is doing. This means that you should describe what you are doing and what your child is doing.
Children are like sponges. They imitate what they see and hear. To help your toddler learn new words, they need to hear more words spoken in the world around them.
It may feel awkward at first. You might even feel like you are talking to yourself but you can start describing what you are doing from day one to support your child’s speech and language development.
3. GET YOUR TODDLER TALKING BY FOLLOWING THE CHILD’S LEAD
Your child is more likely to talk to you when they are involved in something that interests them. When you follow your child’s lead there are a few key steps to keep in mind. You want to observe what your child is doing, listen and wait before you join them.
Once you have observed what your child is doing, you can play along with them by getting down to their eye level so that your child can clearly see your face.
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4. GET YOUR TODDLER TALKING BY IMITATING
Children need to imitate actions before they start imitating words. Imitation is a necessary prerequisite skill.
In order for your child to learn to imitate you, it is suggested that you imitate the sounds and words that your child makes. When your child makes a sound, copy them.
Think of it as a game and you want to be a copycat. You can even change the pitch of your voice.
5. GET YOUR TODDLER TALKING BY IMPLEMENTING A WAIT TIME
Wait time is one of the most powerful ways to get your toddler talking. Wait time involves pausing and waiting for a response from your child.
Once you’ve asked your question, wait about 5-10 seconds before responding or repeating it. You can even give that expectant waiting while leaning closer to let your child know that a response is expected.
- Focus on providing more comments and descriptions versus only asking questions.
- Offer choices to provide your toddler with the words to use.
- Imitate your toddler’s sounds and actions.
- This is meant to serve as a guide and not a requirement to attempt every technique at once. Pick one technique to start and practice it until you’re comfortable with it.
- It is a process that requires several repetitions and practice to start to see a change.
- Remember to praise all communication attempts from your child. This lets your toddler know that in order to make their wants and needs known, they must communicate with you.
- Communications is more than words, so pay close attention to your toddler’s gestures, pointing, sounds, words and word attempts.
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Amanda (Karas) Gerson is a licensed pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist (Speech Therapist). She is the founder of ABG Speech Therapy. Amanda specializes in working with children with Speech and Language delays and disorders.
She is passionate about teaching parents and empowering them with the tools to get their child talking from the comfort of their own home. She aims to provide parents with evidenced based tips that are quick and easy to implement.
It is essential for parents to know what to expect, signs to look for and how they can support their child’s Speech/Language development from day one. She believes that it is important to meet the family and the child where they are.
Children develop at their own pace and will flourish when it is their time. Her goal is for parents to enjoy each and every precious moment with their little ones without worrying if their child’s development is on track.
Download the speech sound development guide to learn the early sounds to focus on along with tips to encourage your child’s first word.