Tips for Toddlers

This week I thought I’d move onto toddlers and by this I mean children from 12 months to 3 years – while children this age can be wilful and push boundaries, they are so full of fun, that I really enjoy working with them!

Toddlers love to play, especially with adults. At this age, while they develop their language and play skills, they’re much more likely to interact with you than with other children. And play is a perfect opportunity for learning language. If you can spend 15 minutes or so a day focusing on these areas below, it will really benefit your toddler:

Face to face: Getting down to your child’s level and being face to face with them means that you can see exactly what they’re interested in.

This is a great example of face to face

Follow your child’s lead: Once you are at your child’s level, let them lead the play. If they are not yet using many words, copy what they’re doing. If they’re talking a bit more, encourage them to tell you what they want. I know a lot of children enjoy playing the same games and acting out the same scenarios so if you want you can expand your child’s play by gently adding your own ideas. Obviously you can’t follow your child’s lead all the time, but if you do it where possible it will open up so many positive communication opportunities.

If you don’t mind mess, baking can be a way to let your child lead and communicate.

Comment on your child’s play: This is a really powerful tool. Focusing on what your child is doing and using short comments instead of questions allows you to model language without putting them under pressure to respond. Your child will still respond to comments, and may respond more than with questions. Try “the monkey’s jumping” instead of “is the monkey jumping?” Although it can be tempting, avoid testing what your child knows by asking, ‘what’s this?’ especially if your child is a little reserved. 

Add words: If your child is already using words and phrases, a great tip is to imitate the word or phrase that they’ve used (with correct grammar) and add a word. For example if your child says “eat apple” you could say “the doll’s eating an apple”.

Wait to give your child time to respond: It can be tempting to fill playtime with lots of language especially if your toddler only has a few words, but at this time it’s important to wait once you’ve spoken to give your child time to respond. It can take them a little time to process what you’ve said, so give them longer than you would an older child or adult.

Once again, these ideas can be brought into all aspects of your daily routine from mealtimes and bath time to outdoor play and getting dressed. Reading is a great language learning time, especially if you don’t follow the written words of the book, instead look at the pictures and talk together about what you can see, let your toddler lead when they want to turn the pages.

Screen time can be a fantastic talking activity, if you both have your attention on it!

Its typical for toddlers to use their first words anywhere between the ages of 1 year to 18 months and start putting two words to form mini sentences at around 2 years of age. And don’t worry if you can’t understand everything they’re trying to say at the moment as speech sounds typically come a little later. However, if you are worried about your child’s speech or language development, then contact your local NHS speech and language therapy department or while we are social distancing, feel free to contact me through the details found on my Facebook page.

Baby Talk

Due to the current restrictions around social contact, I have been unable to visit any of my clients for the last 4 weeks, so I thought to keep me busy I would write a blog, moving from communicating with babies, through to toddlers and preschoolers and then some advice for children with speech, language and communication delays. Please share with anyone you feel may find this useful.

So today I thought I’d start with communication advice for babies. My idea is that any of this advice can be done anywhere and at any time, especially at home (given the current circumstances!)

Talking to your baby can begin as early as when they are in the womb. Your baby will be able to hear and recognise your voice and talking to your bump will help you get used to talking to someone who doesn’t talk back! Your partner can also join in, which will help baby learn to recognise their voice.

It’s so easy to get lots of lovely eye contact during cuddle time!

Once baby is here, talk to them as much as you can. I used to describe what I was doing as I was cooking and my baby was watching in his bouncer or constantly chat while walking around the supermarket (not particularly practical right now I know!)

There has been lots of evidence to suggest that adults talk to their children differently than they do to other adults – using “baby talk” or motherese which is much more musical and exaggerated. This way of talking is so beneficial as it helps babies attend to, and engage with, their care givers. It is slower and so helps develop understanding and highlight the structure of language/sentences.

And you don’t have to talk all the time – some of the most powerful moments between you and your baby can be during face to face time, just making eye contact, copying any movements they may be making, sharing smiles. If your baby makes any sounds you can copy them back. This is can help build the foundations of turn taking, needed for conversations as children get older.

Reading to babies can be done as early as you want, they do not need to be aware of the book, its just a perfect opportunity for them to hear your voice and begin to build reading into your routine.

The same goes for singing and music. There’s a reason so many toys designed for babies make noise or sing songs, but they will love your voice singing to them just as much and home made shakers made from plastic bottles and rice can be just as effective as a shop bought toy.

You can even talk to baby about trees and plants in the garden!

Once your baby is a bit more mobile, interactive and showing an interest in toys then label objects, using single words as much as possible. If your baby has moved onto solids then name the food they are eating as they are eating it. Talk to them at bath time, using lots of fun words like ‘splash’ and ‘pop’ to help engage them. In fact you can bring language into any aspect of your routine – getting dressed time, morning cuddles, out on a walk, anytime!

For more ideas and advice around talking to, playing and general life with babies and young children visit for some excellent stuff!