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Communicating with your toddler

When a child's language skills start to develop, it happens quickly. Parents can help set a positive course for how their kids communicate for the rest of their lives.

During the first year or two of your child's life, communication was limited to cries, vocal sounds and facial expressions. But all that's changing now.

Between ages 2 and 3 your toddler's vocabulary will grow by leaps and bounds, according to Zero to Three.

Your little one will also start turning into a genuine talker, putting together three- or four-word sentences, such as "I got new shoes." Even if not every word is clear, toddlers love to talk. Many times, they take a long time to finish what they are saying.

How healthy communication helps

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), building healthy communication with your child helps him or her learn to:

  • Talk to you openly and honestly.
  • Manage feelings in order to avoid acting on them impulsively.
  • Listen to you better, which will make discipline easier.

As a parent, healthy communication helps you feel close to your child. It also helps you know his or her needs and better deal with frustration when conflicts arise.

What parents can do

Here are a few suggestions from the AAP to guide you on communicating well with your child.

Be there to talk. It's hard to find time in the day for the things you have to do. But talking to your child has to be a priority. Just making an effort to sit and talk for a few minutes can set you on the right path. Ask questions that will lead to a longer conversation. Let your little one ask you questions too.

Explain things clearly. Sometimes it seems like a child is being defiant. But it may be that he or she just didn't understand what you said. Give instructions that are clear for your child's age. And make sure he or she understands what you're saying. For instance, before going into a store, you can tell your toddler, "I expect you to be polite and stay with me." Then ask if he or she understood what you said.

Listen actively. Nodding and saying "uh-huh" while you watch television does not qualify as a real conversation with your child. When your toddler talks to you, make eye contact and show interest. You might paraphrase what he or she just told you. This will show that you're really listening.

Tell and read stories. Children love stories. Reading with them helps them learn about language or how to prepare for events, such as a new sibling. You can also tell stories about the family. Kids get a kick out of hearing about themselves as babies or even about when mom and dad were children.

Communication is the basis for every relationship your child will have for the rest of his or her life. By starting things off right, you can influence your child for a lifetime.

Reviewed 8/31/2022

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