Language Development for Toddlers

by Nancy D. Sivilai

Language Development for Toddlers by Nancy D. Sivilai

It is important to have an idea of how language develops in children.  Language is developing since before birth as the baby hears his/her mother’s voice.  After birth, the family will be teaching language to their child by being language models and by trying to understand when the child tries to communicate.  At first, the baby’s language is through crying.    It is through crying that the baby is saying, I am hungry or I need to be picked up or I feel tired, etc.  As the family responds, the child is learning to communicate. As you respond to your child with vocabulary, repeated words and adjust to accommodate your child’s emerging language ability you are promoting language development clearly to your child.  Language development begins with babbling and cooing to first words, native language sounds, telegraph sentences, creative grammar and adult speech.

By age 2, your toddler will be able to say about 50 words and begin to put 2 word sentences.  In my class, toddlers enjoy pointing to body parts and are able to point to their nose, eyes, mouth, and so forth and they have started to say each body part, however, many children can point well before they can verbalize it.   Our toddler class also enjoys pointing to pictures on storybooks when asked “Where is the yellow duck?”  

We now realize that oral and written language are intertwined.  Children actually are learning about reading and writing at the same time they are learning to talk.   Learning to read and talk happens at the same time.  Babies/toddlers begin to read as soon as books/print become part of their lives.  To help your child in his/her language development I would encourage parents to read to your toddler.  Read books, sing nursery rhymes, sing songs and talk about what you are doing, what might happen, identify words, name characters, read for information, or speculate excitedly.

Another way is through play.  Play is an important part of language development because as toddlers play and explore they learn to name block shapes, cooking toys, puzzle pieces or toy cars.  They also learn to share and take turns and the importance of using words to interact with friends.  

At home toddlers expand their experiences beyond toys by helping with chores.  A toddler can put away toys, or explore the family garden.   You may also take your toddler to the grocery store, pizza restaurant or zoo.  These places will enrich your child’s vocabulary as well as later help him/her be able to talk about real experiences.  May you enjoy watching your child’s language development expand daily.