The toddler age — 2 to 3 years old — is when most children’s vocabulary shoot up, going from a handful of words to 200. Just take a look at Scarlet Snow Belo Kho who gave a thank-you speech (of sorts) to all the people who made her recent third birthday party fun.
This stage becomes your child's foundation for language and speech development, and more importantly, comprehension skills. Here are a few things you can do right now to encourage your tot to talk more:
1. Say your words clearly
Don’t be afraid to use a diverse vocabulary of words when talking to your toddler — name as many parts of the body you can when giving her bath! Just remember to talk clearly and to avoid using long and complicated sentences. Emphasize key words in a sentence as well, like “dog” in “Look over there, it’s a dog!”
2. Give your toddler choices
When offering something to your toddler, provide her with choices. Say something like, “Do you want banana or apple for dessert?” or “Do you want to wear the yellow or the blue shirt today?”
Not only does this expose your toddler to more words and allows her to respond back, it also practices her independence and manage her defiance (such as when your toddler says “no” or “ayaw” all the time).
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
“Your child's vocabulary will grow quickly, but pronunciation isn't likely to keep pace,” said KidsHealth. When she says “mimi” to mean milk, for example, smile and say “Yes, you want milk?” “Emphasize the correct pronunciations in your responses,” advised KidsHealth.
Reading the same bedtime story every night (because your little one keeps asking for it!) is also great for your tot’s speech development — so don’t get tired of it!
“One way children learn new words is by hearing the same story again and again. It might be boring to you, but it isn’t to him. Toddlers enjoy repetition,” says pediatrician Dr. Carmen Ramos-Bonoan, who is the national director of the Philippine Ambulatory Pediatric Association (PAPA) that runs "Reach Out & Read" program, a collaboration of pediatricians and early childhood educators to put books into the hands of disadvantaged young Filipino children.
4. Keep reading bedtime stories
Look for books on all sorts of topics and subjects that have words your child hasn't encountered yet. For this age, Dr. Ramos-Bonoan recommends books with rhyme, rhythm or repeated text that your child can learn by heart, silly and funny books, books about children and families, and books with pictures and names of different things.
5. Treat your child’s talking like a conversation
At 3 years old, your little one may be able to string three to six words to make a sentence. “They are complete sentences, but simple ones, such as 'Mommy is eating,'” Dr. Kenn Apel, an expert in literacy and reading from the University of South Carolina, tells Parents.
No matter how simple the conversation, use it as an opportunity to elaborate more on what she said (“Yes, roosters do make that sound! They like to crow when they wake up in the morning.”). You can also ask her questions that start with “what,” ”who,” and “where.” The back-and-forth communication builds her comprehnsion skills and helps her learn how to take turns in conversation.
6. Turn off the screens and TV
If you want to encourage your tot to talk more, take the initiative and talk to her — put the screens away! “When we let our kids use electronic devices in the car or the bus, [we miss out on] really good opportunities to talk to our children. You can be talking about what you’re seeing and what your day was, and that language exposure is important to your child,” speech-language pathologist Anthony D. Koutsoftas, Ph.D. tells SmartParenting.com.ph.
7. Talk in both Filipino and English
Bilingual parents might be afraid that their native language will interfere with their child learning a second language (for Pinoys, it is likely English). “It will not,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative and professor at Harvard University.
In fact, the opposite is actually true, said the expert. “You need to speak to them a lot no matter what your home language is because the basic patterns in human language that they're picking up will facilitate their language acquisition.”