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Toddler Lesson Plans: Learning to Talk

By Keren Perles

Do you have a slow-to-talk toddler? Read on for some tips on teaching toddlers to improve speaking skills.

Labeling

Many caregivers have a toddler that isn't speaking at the rate of it's peers. When you’re trying to teach your toddler to talk, it’s important to always label, label, and label some more! Months before children are actively speaking, they are building up their receptive language, and learning to understand the words that they hear. At the grocery store, don’t just plunk your child in the cart and ignore her while you do your shopping. Instead, label the objects she sees, especially the ones she looks interested in. “Look, that’s a red apple. Apple.” Do the same thing while she’s playing or eating: “A truck! Wow, the truck is driving around” or “Would you like some milk? Here it is. Milk.”

After your child seems familiar with an object, ask her to bring it to use by using the same label. “I see your truck on the floor. Can you bring me your truck? Where’s the truck?” You may be surprised at your child’s response.

Although labeling may not seem to lead to talking in the short run, it will eventually build up your toddler’s word recognition so that she will be able to use the words to communicate. Just keep on labeling!

Responding to Your Toddler

What happens when your toddler uses gestures or single words to communicate with you? First of all, recognize that that’s exactly what he’s doing: communicating with you. Gestures are one very important way of communicating with others, and he will eventually replace those gestures with speech. At the same time, it is important to respond to his gestures correctly.

For example, if your child points to a cookie and grunts, you may respond by labeling: “Cookie? You want a cookie? OK, here is a cookie.” If you know that your child can say the word “cookie,” you may even prompt with “What do you want? A cookie or a rice cake? Tell Mommy.”

If your older toddler uses one-word sentences, expand them for him. For example, if your toddler says “cookie,” you might say, “You want a cookie? I think you’re saying ‘Mommy, I want a cookie.’ OK, here is one.”

Most importantly, don’t make talking into a battleground. Treat it as a game, and slowly help your child to develop his speech. The most important way you can teach your toddler to talk is to infuse his environment with language.