You couldn’t help notice the quantity of words your friend’s two year old son rattled off this weekend.
How can you help your own two-year-old’s language thrive?
1. Monitor how you talk with your child
- Make solid comments: “I am racing the car – zoom!” – pause to give your child the opportunity to imitate or make his own comment.
- Ask choice questions: “Do you want the red car or the blue car?”
- If your child is ready for open-ended questions, this is even better for developing language skills: “Which car do you want to play with?”
Avoid: Talking too much, Yes / No questions, asking too many questions and not waiting long enough for a response (count to five very slowly in your head).
Tip: Parents recognize habits in their language when they review video of themselves playing with their child. While you have the best intentions, and so much love, you may not realize how little of an opportunity you are giving your child to verbally participate.
2. In your daily, supervised 30 minute, 1:1, non-interrupted playtime, choose activities that provide your child with optimal language learning opportunities.
Three favorite language learning activities:
- Play-doh – Use the standard pin roller, cookie cutters, extruder, spaghetti maker, scissors, plastic knife, etc., (all of which provide an exceptional opportunity to encourage verbs – e.g., cut, roll, twist, push, pull) and add additional fun:
- Real birthday candles , cut straws or pretzel sticks for a pretend birthday cake
- Reusable silicon cupcake holders
- Mr. Potato Head pieces
- Dried pasta to decorate your pizza
- Fossil Find – hide small objects such as plastic animals, buttons, Legos, beach shells, keys, coins
- Spray bottle with water – Fun on it’s own in the bathtub, (always a great place for language learning) or incorporate with:
- Washing the table, windows, under the kitchen table, etc.
- Playing car wash – add cars and rags. Build a garage together using blocks, Magnatiles, or simply use a cardboard box.
- Color a picture on a thick paper plate with washable markers and also try washable Crayola stampers (Use “My First” Crayloa stampers if your child isn’t ready for the stampers that look like broad markers). Using the spray bottle, pretend it’s raining on your picture plates. Sing: “It’s Raining, It’s pouring” while watching the colors run. Clean up the mess together using more water from the spray bottle.
- Plastic Egg Scavenger Hunt – Place jumbo plastic eggs or novel shaped eggs (which can be harder to open) in an opaque bag. Prior to introducing the task, place small toys inside the eggs such as a ball, mini slinky, top, mini poppers, monster pop-ups, squeeze toys, rings, cars, finger puppets.
- Engage your child to reach into the bag: “Hmmm! What’s Inside!?” Encourage your child to take “one egg” (understanding the concept of “one” is an important skill). Your son may need help opening the eggs as well. The more difficult the egg is to open, the more likely he will have to request action – request you “help,” “open,” or “help open the egg!” Speech therapists love toys that are hard to open, broken toys, and playing dumb – as all three encourage children to request an item or action they really want.
- Talk about the exciting item inside! “PUSH down” the monster pop-up. “Wait, wait, wait – POP!” “Oh it jumped SO high!” (Jump up too.) Hopefully your son will request “more.” Expand his request: “More jumping!” or “I want the monster to jump MORE too!”
- Before the surprise inside gets boring, encourage your son to choose another egg from the bag.
- Hide the eggs another time you play and incorporate prepositions. Is the egg under the pillow? Is it behind the couch? Is the egg inside the toy box?
3. Take pictures of your son participating these activities, as well as the actual toys and activities.
Later that evening, review the pictures together. This will help your child review vocabulary and language from earlier that day, and help him learn to discuss remote events.
4. Choose children’s books wisely to encourage language skills.
Should you feel your child needs professional support with language development and you live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, please feel free to contact Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, speech therapist. Stephanie looks forward to hearing from you!