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Language development in toddlers

2021-03-16 00:00:00

Written by Amber Simons

It is very important for the language development of your two-year-old that you communicate with them a lot. Your toddler is still learning about words and their meaning, as well as interactions and the social aspects of language. Here’s an overview of what happens in the language development of toddlers between the ages of two and four years of age and how you can stimulate it.

2-2,5 years

  • Children have a vocabulary of around 200 words, but they already understand about 300 words.
  • Children still imitate a lot of words, so it is extra important that you watch what you say around your child. There are some words that children still make mistakes in, for example they say “tate” instead of “cake”.
  • Children practice with three-word sentences and also learn to apply the word ‘no’ when they want something to stop.
  • Children now know their own name, the names of some other children and some body parts.
  • Children can already make themselves understood in general, but still mainly convey their feelings non-verbally, for example by walking away, pointing or hugging.
  • Children do not yet know all the words, but adults understand well; as their ‘teacher’ you are their example.
  • During this period, practice animal names with your child and the sounds that they make.
  • You can focus on different colours and practice pronouncing colour names.
  • Sing songs to your child and encourage them to sing along; articulate the words well and enhance them with your facial expressions.
  • You can play games with facial expressions, for example by showing an emotion, naming this emotion and asking your child to imitate it.

2,5-3 years

  • Children are now making more and more sentences of more than three words and are therefore slowly learning to apply grammar.
  • Children are learning to understand what words like ‘me’ and ‘you’ mean.
  • Children are starting to learn the concept of time and that there is a past, present and future and will also start using words related to time.
  • Children are becoming increasingly clear in their language use, but still find some words difficult, especially if they contain lots of consonants. For example, they say “kool” instead of “school”.
  • Children may start stuttering at this age because they want to form longer sentences and say a lot in a short space of time, or are so enthusiastic that they stumble over their own words.
  • Give your child time to finish their sentences.
  • If your child says wrong words, it is better if you repeat the sentence in the right way yourself than to correct your child directly. For example, if your child says, “I runned in the park with mummy”, respond with “Isn’t it lovely that you ran in the park with mummy”.
  • You can help your child remember what they did last week, for example, to stimulate thinking about the past and practice telling a story.
  • You can ask for details when you are reading a book together, such as “Where do you see a chick?”

3-3,5 years

  • At around this age, children are already using an average of 1,000 words as well as an increasing number of complete sentences.
  • During this period, children ask a lot of questions, out of curiosity and eagerness to learn. “Why?” is a particularly popular one.
  • Children are focused on new words and will try them out one by one.
  • Children can already tell long stories, including about what happened in the past.
  • Children understand that they have to talk differently to, for example, their brother than to their father or mother.
  • Children experiment with language and challenge those teaching them so as to understand what can be done with language. For example, they know to speak in a sweet manner and voice in order to get something done for them, or to say things like “I wish I could have a cracker”.
  • Respond to your child and answer the questions they ask, even if they ask “Why?” all day long! It is important that you listen to them so that they trust you and know that you are taking them and their questions seriously. This is how you teach them respect and help them to understand the world.
  • You can practice talking about the past even more by, for example, asking what your child ate yesterday or who was at their birthday.
  • Involve your child in conversations and activities; they will feel included if they are allowed and invited to contribute to, for example, plans for the day, and will also learn from it.

3,5-4 years

  • Children are now really starting to speak the same way as adults, including in the way children convey their ideas and feelings.
  • Children are now applying the different forms of time correctly.
  • Ask your child counter questions – this makes them think, remember the answer better and stimulates creativity and solution-oriented thinking. For example, when your child asks, “Can I have a cracker?”, you can respond with, “How many crackers have you already had?”
  • You can slowly start to make it clear to your child that there is a difference between made-up and real. Do this without negating feelings or questioning claims; instead, focus on the fact that it is good to tell the truth and that they themself are responsible for this (and not, for example, an imaginary friend).
  • Help your child practice naming colours or counting and copying/repeating patterns or sequences.
  • Always be clear in your communication. You are the example after all!

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