Have you ever had something on your mind but can’t find the words to express how you feel or what you are thinking?
Frustrating wasn’t it? Welcome to the mind space of a 2 year old.
At age two, your child is able to comprehend much more than they are able to communicate.
Why is it frustrating for your toddler?
Your toddler has ideas, emotions and understandings that can be overwhelming when they are not able to share them. They simply do not have the words or are still learning how to piece their words together to tell the world. This is very frustrating for them and can often end in tears.
How can us parents help?
The key to building vocabulary is talking and in turn, listening. The more us parents talk, the more opportunities we are offering our child to listen. This will help your child learn the context of the words we are saying.
Repetition makes the words memorable and concretes the definition when used in context.
Play to your child’s interests to keep them engaged in the activity.
Do you have a dinosaur lover? Use dinosaurs in your play!
Do you have a bug lover? Use insects in your play!
Is your little champ obsessed with trains? Use trains in your play!
If they aren’t interested in the activity, your child is likely to lose interest which isn’t going to be of any benefit to them or you.
Activities That Can Build Vocabulary
Through play, help build your child’s vocabulary so they have a better understanding of the elements around them. In addition, this will in turn also assist them in sharing their own thoughts.
When you toddler points something out, build on their understanding by repeating that they have said and also mention the colour.
Parent: ” Yes, that is a brown dog. A dog says ‘Woof’!”
This will affirm for the child that they are being heard and will open them up to another eight words all used in context. Take it to another level and point out some other ‘brown’ things that they can see to further build their comprehension and vocabulary.
Repetition, repetition, repetition!
Add Sensory Element
Sensory play is a brilliant way to open up conversations and build vocabulary for a toddler. Use words to discuss how something feels, sounds, smells and tastes.
Does it feel smooth or rough, hot or cold, heavy or light?
When shaken does it make a loud sound or a quiet sound, is it a deep sound or a higher pitch sound, does the sound echo or does it stop quickly?
Does it have a pleasant smell or a off putting scent? Is it a sweet scent or and earthy smell?
Does it taste sweet or sour? Can you taste the flavour on the front of your tongue or the back of your tongue?
Is it oozy or dry?
When pressed upon, does it flex or snap?
Use different textures, colours and temperatures in your sensory play to help open up these conversations and build your toddlers vocabulary.
Do you have a sensory avoider? Why not put the mediums into a ziplock bag?
They are great for messy free sensory play or for children who find messy sensory play overwhelming.
Two year olds feel big emotions for such tiny people. They certainly can’t be expected to control them at this age however a parent can help their toddler understand what emotions they are feeling and begin to build a foundation on how to act on them.
When they are experiencing an emotion, let them know the word and suggest a way to express it.
Is your toddler laughing? Tell them they are really happy or that they find something so funny that their joy is bursting out of them!
Are they feeling sad? Let them know that they are feeling sad and that they can come to you for a cuddle so you can help them get through it.
Can you see your toddler getting irritated? Let them know that you can see they are being bothered and suggest to them a way to diffuse the situation. Their blocks might not be stacking on a carpeted surface so let them know that it is frustrating the blocks won’t stack and suggest to work together to fix the problem.
Ask them how they think their favourite character might be feeling in their bedtime story or simply bring their attention to the illustrations. Explain to your child very basically how to read which emotion the character is showing then take a turn making the same face for a giggle.
Nursery rhymes and poems are full of rhyming words and repetition.
Along with the musical tone and fun had dancing around the room while singing them, songs are often easily remembered by our two year olds.
Think old school ‘Twinkle, Twinkle”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Humpty Dumpty” and “Old MacDonald”.
Team the songs up with some fun actions and you will have a fun activity that is building their vocabulary, motor skills and cherishable childhood memories all at once!
Importance of Reading
One of the most influential ways of teaching your toddler their words and putting them into context is by reading books.
Has your child asked to read “Where is the Green Sheep?” for the 31335th time for the day? As pain staking as it is, do it!
Repetition, repetition, repetition!
Books open up new words that are outside of our default ones that us parents will find ourselves using day in day out.
Choose books that are appropriate to your child’s age with supporting illustrations to further help build comprehension.
The story need not come to an end on the last page. Upon finding that green sheep fast asleep why not ask your toddler where he would fall asleep if they were a green sheep?
What to do while your toddler is struggling
More often than not us parents can at times, have a bit of an understanding of what our toddlers are trying to say before they have finished saying it ( and there are plenty of times when we are asking the same questions over and over as we don’t have a clue what they want and in fairness they probably don’t know either!).
At times like this, let them finish. Reward their persistence by letting them finish. Once they are done, repeat it in a more suitable way if need be.
Toddler: “Dropped car. Gone”
Parent: “Did you drop your car and now can’t find it?”
Toddler: “Eat apple”
Parent: “May I please have an apple to eat?”
If your child mispronounces a word or uses a made up word to refer to something, just simply repeat it in the correct way (I apologise to any grown ups that I still do this too… my bad!)
My Miss 22m will often refer to a dinosaur as a roar. Yes, dinosaurs do roar however they are not called roars. They are dinosaurs.
Miss 22m: “Me, roar play?”
Me: “Can we please play with the dinosaurs?”
There is no need to go into it more than that. Sometimes they will repeat it, others they won’t. They are listening though. One day, the penny will drop and a roar will go back to being a sound made by her beloved triceratops rather than the animals themselves.
What to do if you are concerned?
If you are concerned about your two year olds speech, comprehension, hearing or any other aspect of their development, have a chat with your Child Health Nurse or GP.
Be kinder to yourself than laying awake at night for months on end stressing and wondering ‘what if?’.
Us parents know our children best and if it turns out your child is within the expected development range, you will have peace of mind. If not, there is so much to be gained through early intervention during the early years of childhood. You will have access to and support from specialists to help you guide your child.
Two year olds will drive you crazy but by golly they do grow up so quickly. Each tantrum will soon be a distant memory but the love and support you can imprint on them at this age through these troubled times will last a lifetime.
Dani D x
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