Positive Parenting: How to Talk To Toddlers
Scientists say parents have the unique and critical opportunity to help sharpen their child’s language skills in the very first years of life
For Oscar Puerto, reading gives him time to bond with 2-year-old Odin and 6-year-old Rose.
“She tries to read everything she sees and tries to spell this and that,” he says.
Science now shows us strong vocabulary skills start years before, as early as a child’s first birthday, according to Developmental Psychologist Catherine Tamis-LeMonda at NYU.
“That’s when children transition to saying their very first words,” she says. “Then they go through an explosion in vocabulary.”
Tamis-lemonda studied 40 pairs of infants and their mothers.
The study recorded daily activities and payed close attention to the amount, diversity and content of mom’s conversation, especially responsive language.
“So it would be if I said you looked at the cup, I’d say cup, that’s a cup, just as the baby touched it,” Tamis-lemonda says.
The research found families who had a high level of responsive conversations, or conversations where parents follow up on the child’s lead, had babies who spoke their first words before 11 months.
Families who did not, had children who didn’t speak until around 18 months.
Researchers say parents should talk to their toddlers during everyday activities.
While dressing, talk about the clothing and how it goes on.
While eating, talk about food and utensils.
“So as parents are talking to children, it’s not just that children are acquiring vocabulary, they’re acquiring connections among those words,” Tamis-lemonda says.
As children get older, it will become much easier for parents to elicit words, phrases, and eventually stories from them, which is important for school readiness.