Talking and Engaging More Effectively
Quick and Simple Tips for YEAR 2

Year 2 includes many of the Tips of Year 1, and some new ones:

  1. Treat your baby as a full conversational partner. Treat babbles, speech sounds, first word approximations and words as special, and respond extra excitedly to them. Your child needs to learn that speech sounds and words are special.
  2. Talk in Parentese/Baby Talk and talk directly with your child, face-to-face, one-on-one. This makes it easier to learn first words, and boosts word learning, science says. Baby talk – with its longer and stressed words, shorter sentences, longer pauses makes language clearer for young word learners, and that gives them an edge in learning.
  3. Label things and actions, often. Follow your child’s interest. Rather than redirecting to what you’d like to look at or play with, and naming that thing, label what your child is focused on. Label the object AS your child is focused on it. Timing is important: When the child is focused on an object – manipulating it, looking at it, and/or babbling something – the brain is most ready to learn.
  4. Increase the child’s attention and use motions. To make the child more interested in an object, add some motion as you talk about it: Shake, wiggle or twist the object as you label it. The motion gets the child’s attention, and that helps learning. More experienced learners don’t need that extra ‘object fuss’.
  5. Use simple sentence frames. Let’s + X, Where’s the + X, Can you find + X, …; Look at the + X… Parents usually use a lot of such frames, and in doing so help first understanding and learning of grammar.
  6. Ask and model simple ‘where’, What’ questions. Toddlers have to learn that some speech, such as questions, require an answer. Keep asking and modeling, until she gets the hang of the question-answer routine. Answers don’t need to be correct at the beginning: What counts is that she responds. An action, gesture, word, or babble indicate that she has learned that it’s her turn to answer.
  7. Have back & forth exchanges to keep the conversation up. Ask questions, copy what your child is doing, point at something she’s interested in, pick up a toy she looks at, ..… . Use words, gestures, and actions to keep the conversation flowing, and tune in to what your child is interested in.
  8. Copy what your child is doing to get the conversation started. If your child doesn’t say much yet, just copying what he does can often start the conversation. Toddlers love to be copied – especially, if you copy them exactly.
  9. Introduce simple make-believe play and use language to document what’s happening. Take familiar objects and pretend they are something else: For example, pretend that the block is a car, and say for example, vroom vroom, I’m a car, I’m driving. I’m going to Grandma’s… Give your child another block, and pretend to drive together. Expand pretend play over time.
  10. Get more specific with labels. Once your child has basic words for objects, get more specific: Instead of saying a ball, say it’s a soccer ball, or instead of a flower, it’s a rose. This way the child can learn more specific labels, and also learns that one thing can have more than one name.
  11. Expand what the child is saying into short sentences. For example, if he says, nana, you can say: Yes, that’s right! That’s a BANANA! Or: Do you want a BANANA? It’s best not to repeat the child’s own mispronounced words, and to instead model the target words correctly. At this age mispronunciations are common and ‘normal’.
  12. Repeat and Vary. In the second year, children still need to hear lots of repetition. Repeat and vary the context of the words, for example: Your child says: T(r)u! , you can say: Yes, there’s the TRUCK! It’s a BIG truck! It’s a big BLUE truck.
  13. Read aloud with your toddler everyday. Read as if you were having a back & forth conversation: Ask questions, fill in answers at first, point to objects and label them, ask about different characters, …
  14. Talk about past events that were special to the toddler. Use photos to make past memories come alive. Talking about the past solidifies his memory and makes him think and reconstruct what happened. Ask questions to guide him: What were you wearing for Halloween? Look at the picture… Do you remember?