Saturday, May 9, 2009

Toddler Speech

Ok, I disagree with some things this article said, which was posted on a Cafe Mom Chatboard I was visiting. You don't need to talk to your child in adult language all the time. As a matter of fact, Linguistics 101 will cover child-speech acquisition in depth and explain that Motherese/Parentese (speaking baby-talk) exists in not only every language, but actually follows the same patterns and DOES help in speech development. Of course, variety is key; you want to mix it up. I talked to Claire in Motherese all the time. She seems to be doing just fine. This morning when I took off my jammies, she yelled, "Mommy get nakey!" Hmm. Good thing the windows weren't open. :) What do you think of this article? hmm...

Family Ideas to Encourage Toddler Speech Development
by Irene Helen Zundel
Family Activities, Growth and Development
Talk a lot to your child.
For children to learn a language, they must hear it spoken often. To get a child to talk, you have to talk.

During the day, comment on things going on in your child’s environment. Describe the colors and shapes of things, objects around them and tasks you are doing. Point out people in the neighborhood like the postal carrier or bank clerk. Talk as long as your child shows interest. If he turns away or appears inattentive, stop. Don’t give your toddler a case of auditory overload!

Read plenty of books for toddlers.
For toddlers, select picture and pop-up books. Take time to point out objects in the pictures and give simple commentary and explanations on what your child is seeing. Also get books with simple-to-follow stories and ear-catching rhymes.

Re-read the books often. Repetition is a key to learning.

Play singing toddler games.

Children are naturally drawn to music and will pay attention to simple songs. Sing, play a musical instrument or use a sing-along tape. Include hand-clapping and finger-play activities such as "Pat-a-Cake" or "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider." Music helps children acquire the rhythm of spoken language. Pleasant jingles and repetitive lyrics are natural memory tools that help a child pick up new words and concepts.

Label things.
Putting labels on commonly seen and used objects helps a child recognize written language and make associations between words and things. Put labels on toys, clothes, furniture, eating utensils, your mailbox, etc. Reinforce the words by repeating them and then asking your toddler to say them, too. ("This is your cup. Can you say cup?")

Expand your child’s experiences beyond family home activities.
Long before children speak, they acquire a receptive vocabulary -- a storehouse of words and concepts they understand before they can speak. Taking them to a wide variety of places and talking in simple language about what you see helps to build your toddler’s storehouse of language.

Go to the supermarket, doctor, playground, post office, bank, zoo and mall. Reinforce what you experience with a follow-up book, drawing, song or creative bedtime story.

Ask questions.
Researchers have found that asking a child questions is a great way to jump start her language development. Even if your toddler can’t give a verbal response, ask questions anyway and give her an opportunity to point, nod yes or no, or attempt a vocalization.

Try simple questions like, "Do you want to have some milk now?" Be sure to pause and be attentive to encourage a response. As your toddler develops better communication skills, try asking questions that offer a choice: "Do you want your book or your ball?"

Keep it simple.
Speak audibly, clearly and slowly. Use simple words and short sentences. Communicating this way makes it easier for your toddler to understand you and to parrot your words and speech patterns. Use adult words, not baby talk. Using cute mispronunciations that will need to be corrected later on will only confuse your child.

Keep up the dialogue.
When your toddler speaks to you, reply in some fashion even if you don’t understand what she's saying. A response of "Is that so?" or "Isn’t that interesting?" will keep a toddler engaged in the conversation and will motivate her keep trying to communicate.

Give your child your full attention. Make eye contact. Listen, reply and give her an opportunity to speak again. Often times children feel left out of conversations and slighted or ignored. Letting your child have the floor sometimes will encourage her self-expression and accelerate her language skills.

Source: "What to Expect: The Toddler Years," Eisenberg, Murkhoff, and Hathaway; Workman Publishing, 1994.

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