Frustrated toddler or preschooler? And frustrated mommy and daddy? It’s safe to say that a lot of the time it can point right back to lack of communication skills. Many kids have a solid handle of receptive language which means they understand words heard or read to them. Many even have sign language down. But the expressive language or the ability to put their own thoughts into spoken words and sentences that makes sense…that hasn’t quite come together yet. And that equals a lot of tantrums and meltdowns for your little one. When Jai was only a few months old, I wrote a post on ways to encourage your baby to talk. Now I’m back 3 years later with 6 ways to get your toddler or preschooler to express and build upon even more language. These tips can really be used for any age. I’m using them with my own boys ages 20 months and 3 so they are tried and tested. If you’re trying to get more words out of your child and want to encourage expressive language, check out this quick list.
Reduce Yes/No questions –
If you always ask yes/no questions, you’re pretty much only going to get yes/no answers. I know it’s easy to do this – I’m guilty of it myself especially when in a hurry which is almost always thesedays. But instead, ask open-ended questions. Instead of “Do you want some milk?” ask “What would you like to drink with your lunch?” Or ask “Do you want a glass of water or milk?” This will increase vocabulary, give you more information providing a better reply to your questions.
Present choices of two –
Give your child a choice by actually presenting to him two options. In the first tip, you can already kind of see how this works. But this also incorporates giving them the choice. So for example, when you know your child is thirsty, you can present him with a cup of water and a cup of milk, asking him if he wants the water or the milk. You can do this with foods too when you know he is hungry, trying a desirable and not so desirable food like a bowl of crackers and a bowl of peas. If you present choices, you can increase the words your child uses by teaching them the name of the things he wants and doesn’t want to eat, drink or play with or do.
Animal noises/environmental sounds –
It’s easy to see why playing is the best for everything related to a child’s development. When playing on the floor together, encourage your child to imitate sounds that the toys would make using animal stuffed animals, farm animals, cars and trucks and more. First make the sounds as an example, then give the toy to your child and ask him to imitate it.
Fill clear plastic bins with toys –
Store toys in clear boxes with lids. Whenever your child wants to play with the toys inside, prompt him to say “help” or “open”. Once he has these words down and gets to the toys inside the box, work with having him say what he wants to play with. We have clear bins with various toys like blocks, cars and plastic animals and this tips works well to force the boys to use their words to get to the toys which they want to play with.
Store toys out of reach but still visible –
Another great tip when it’s play time is to store toys or preferred items out of reach. This forces your child to ask for them by name or to ask for help to get what they want. Model the target word, then prompt him to say it again, without a model. So after you model, say “say it again” to get your little one to repeat the word.
Pointing to verbalization –
When your child is pointing at what they want, always, always, always label. Don’t just say “Ok, let me get that for you” and get it. For example, if he’s pointing at the bubbles on counter, you should say “bubbles…oh you want the bubbles?” while pointing at them too. Then ask him to say the word too, “say bubbles” and then wait for him to say it. Sometimes he will get frustrated while trying to get the word out and sometime he won’t end up saying the word but always model it every.single.time and eventually he will.