Many adults wish they could be understood better by those around them. Toddlers feel the same way, but they have much more limited communication skills! Sometimes, toddlers get so frustrated that they “melt down” in a temper tantrum. Learning how to communicate with your toddler can go a long way toward enhancing your relationship and helping your toddler feel loved and understood.
But how can we communicate with these young children? There are a few exceptions, but most toddlers – children under the age of three – have a pretty limited vocabulary. Learning to understand what your toddler is trying to say is only part of the challenge. You also need to learn how to help your toddler understand you. Here are some tips for helping make this happen.
All of us have unique ways of communicating, and learning another’s language is an important aspect of interpersonal relationships. The same is true for your toddler. Watch your toddler’s gestures and body language. Try to see if he is pointing to or reaching for something. Listen to his sounds – do they have inflections that sound like a question? Maybe it sounds more like a frustrated yell or angry sound. Is it close to mealtime? Maybe a snack might help stave off a meltdown.
The idea is to use your observational powers to learn what your toddler’s needs are so that you can meet those needs before frustration sets in.
Crying Is Communicating
Most people view crying as “bad,” and some even believe it’s punishable. But for toddlers with few words at their disposal, crying is a form of communication just as it is for small babies. A crying toddler is trying to tell you something; this is why many experts recommend finding the source of the problem and addressing it – whether it’s hunger, tiredness, a need for physical touch, or something else – rather than refusing to respond to the crying because it’s “bad” behavior.
Many child development experts agree that you should speak to your toddler in a normal voice rather than “baby talk.” Of course, toddlers tend to enjoy cheerful, energetic and up-beat tones; but it’s a good idea to apply those tones to normal words and speech. This models how speech is supposed to be.
Narrate Your Day
Go ahead and verbalize lots of things during the day with your toddler. She will hear you describe what you’re doing, using lots of interesting words and engaging her in the day’s activities. In the grocery store, talk about colors and flavors and where food comes from; at home, talk about the chores you’re doing, like laundry or dishes, and let her help when it’s appropriate. This helps combine hands-on experience with words.