Talking to Your Toddlers

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Talking to Your Toddlers

Talking to Your Toddlers

Talking to Your Toddlers

It Means More than What You Say

The more you talk to your baby, the more they will learn. Talking promotes communication and language learning, supports social and emotional development, and more.

Parents often have fun talking in baby talk to their newborns and later may focus on “no” as toddlers become more explorative and audacious, but the wider the range of communication and the more time devoted to talking with your child, the better.

It’s about more than what you say. According to an article at WebMD, Talking Early to Babies Helps the Brain, a study found that talking to babies as young as 3 months old influences their cognitive development and helps the brain learn to form categories.

Research has shown that talking with babies can help their brains develop and can also make them better at school when they grow up.

Certainly, it’s true: while you’re talking, your child’s brain is hanging on every word!

Tips for Talking with Your Baby

Did you ever hear of “parentese?” That’s the sing-song “who’s a widdle bay-bee” kind of speech often used around babies. It’s a good thing, and babies prefer it to adult talk.  It’s a natural way to engage your newborn with language, and it is helping their brain to develop in interaction and communication. In general, you should:

  • Talk more slowly to your toddler than you would to an adult.
  • Speak in soft, higher pitched tones. That’s “parentese.”
  • Talk and sing along while playing music (almost all music is baby friendly).
  • Use short sentences with a simple structure while repeating things multiple times.
  • Make sure to put your baby’s name into baby talk.
  • Always say things that make your baby laugh and smile.

Tips for Talking with Toddlers

As your child grows, it’s time for more complex and interesting speech.

  • Talk about your daily experiences. “Did you enjoy going to grandpa’s yesterday?”
  • Engage with your child’s interests. “Is this your favorite toy?”
  • Use imagination. “What do you think will happen next in the story?”
  • Bring in bigger or more difficult toddler words. “Do you like your strawberry yogurt?”
  • Nursery rhymes put the musical nautre of words to work. “Row, row, row the boat!”
  • Have your toddler present while conversing with another adult. Your speech patterns and even the tones and way you communicate emotionally are all examples helping to lay the pathways for future behaviors.

Talking to your toddler helps strengthen your relationship and lets them know you care about their feelings. You can talk about anything you are doing together and share thoughts, ideas, and points of view.

30 Million Word Gap

In the 1990s, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley published the results of a language study among children from 7 months to 3 years. In their book “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” they detail how children were spoken to more often in upper income households, and they concluded that there was a 30-million-word gap between families of high and low socioeconomic status.

The inference was that the extra childhood communication and language used in higher income families could be aiding those children to excel in several areas of development.

Follow up studies have shown that the situation may be more subtle, with not all families of higher socio-economic status giving their children a big language advantage, and not all lower income / less educated families struggling with a deficit.

The most important aspect of all these studies is that everyone agrees that how parents interact with children in the home does matter educationally and “early language differences matter in later reading performance.” It’s therefore important for all parents to be aware of how talking to their children from early months to 3 years old does make a meaningful impact on their development both as toddlers and later during their educational years.

You can read more in the article Is “There Really a 30 Million Word Gap?” By Timothy Shanahan on

Doctors, educators, speech language pathologists and psychologists all agree that the importance of talking to children early in life cannot be overstated.

Early Intervention Therapies

If your child seems to have a developmental delay, there is a great deal of help and many resources you can call upon. Ask your pediatrician about Early Intervention therapies from TEIS Early Intervention.

At TEIS Early Intervention, our therapists listen to your concerns, assess your child’s individual needs, develop a customized treatment plan, and educate you along the way on simple routine-based solutions to maximize your child’s development in their natural environment.

Early Intervention evaluations and therapy services are available under the Federal Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities.  Before services can be provided, an independent evaluation of your child must be completed. To assure impartiality, one agency offers evaluation services while another provides the therapeutic services

To learn more, call TEIS Early Intervention at 412-271-8347 or visit our Contact Us page to get help today.