Communicating with a toddler can be a huge challenge. At two and a half Owen is still just beginning to understand how to express his feelings, wants and needs verbally. Toddlers are notorious for their tantrums, and most times I'd like to think the cause of said tantrums is a failure to communicate. While we're obviously still working on language development, we still feel very lucky that Owen is a pretty great communicator and seems to express his feelings easily.
Here are a handful of ways we try to help him be a good communicator:
We read a lot of books, and engage him in the stories - We usually read a book at least twice before moving on to another (the first time we just read and the second time we engage more), and while we read it the second time we talk together and notice what is happening in the book. We discuss how people are feeling in the book (sad, happy, hungry, tired, etc) and I like to ask him questions about what is happening on the page, i.e. "if you were The Very Hungry Caterpillar what would YOU want to eat next?".
We give him verbal tools - When he becomes frustrated or angry because he doesn't have the words to describe what's upsetting him we try to teach him phrases he can use to get his point across. We've taught him to say "Please stop doing that to me" when he doesn't like something another child is doing and so far it works really well. I taught him to introduce himself and say "Hi, I'm Owen!" when meeting a new child at the park, because he would get sad or upset when other children would ignore him.
We patiently listen to what Owen has to say - About a month ago I noticed Owen had developed a serious stutter. He had never had too much struggle getting words out before, but all of a sudden I noticed e was getting stuck on certain sounds he had never had difficulty with before. I immediately called his doctor, who said it is normal for children this age to develop one, but that it should lessen over the next month after we noticed it. Luckily it did. I guess it happens mostly when a child mind / communication develops faster than their tongue and mouth can catch up. For the few weeks that he struggled to get his point across he would get really frustrated. We tried to make it all easier on him by just being really patient and allowing him lots of extra time to say what he needed to say. Thankfully, his speech is totally back to normal!
We have conversations - One of our favorite things to do is have a chat -- these chats usually consist of me asking questions and Owen answering them. We talk all the time, but we have most of our chats when we're playing pretend with his Star Wars figures or his cars. I ask him what he's thinking, what he sees, what he wants to do etc. I love encouraging him to share his ideas, and playing pretend is a safe place for him to play with conversational language.
We treat him equally at the dinner table - We don't allow him to interrupt us, but we make sure to give him even turns to talk too. I think it's important that he feels like what he has to say about his day is just as important as what we have to say about ours. I also think it's great for him to sit with adults and have a dinner conversation.
We socialize, a lot - He is around a lot of older children a lot of the time between our friends kids, and all of his awesome cousins. All of his cousins are way older than him, so he has a lot of great role models and tons of people around him speaking like grown ups.
Next week we'll be discussing dealing with separation anxiety!
July 31: Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Aug 7: Car Trip Necessities
Aug 14: Deciding when the time is right for baby #2 (and/or how to handle these questions)
Aug 21: Tricks for eating out with your toddler
Aug 28: Feeling confident as a mom (How to feel this way, Your struggle with, etc.)