Communication: 3 - 5 years old

By now, your little one likely has grown in their vocabulary and sentence structure. Now comes the challenge of helping them learn how to communicate with kindness, how to communicate in social settings and also how to communicate their displeasure.

This is a great time to teach your kiddos how to introduce themselves to people they have not met. You can teach them to give eye contact when speaking with someone and also how to shake hands if they are just meeting. This is also a great time to teach how to wait to speak if you are interested in your child knowing how to have a back & forth conversation. Here are a few tricks:

  • have your child put their hand on your arm or leg if they have something to say. Then, place our hand over their hand so they know you are going to address them.

  • if they are constantly interrupting you, pause your sentence and say “John, I hear that you want to tell me something. I’m going to finish this story with Samantha and then I am so excited to hear what you have to say!”

  • once it is their turn to speak, if they waited patiently, praise them for waiting so kindly! Then allow them to take a turn to tell a story.

This is also a time to begin teaching kiddos how to communicate with one another. This can be awkward for caregivers at time but we believe it is so helpful to them in the long run! If your kiddo comes over and says “Sam is mean!!” You can say “oh buddy, I’m sorry. It sounds like your feelings were hurt. Can you share with me what happened.” “Let’s go talk to Sam and see if we can understand where he was coming from, etc.”

Kiddos need our help to put words to their experiences and this is a great season where we get to do that. Good luck, Mamas & Papas, you are stewarding precious little ones!

Communication: 2 years old

“Just wait for the ‘terrible two’s’”, people say. There is some truth to that, for sure, because the 2-3 year range can be pretty challenging. However, there are also some delightful aspects of two year olds that we think get under-regarded!

The minds of two year olds are rapidly expanding and their vocabulary is often exploding! Even as I’m typing a two year old is asking me about the world and expressing his imagination! This is the age they can begin to ask questions and even use a few word sentences. We can either be frustrated by their constant ‘nagging for our attention’ or we can receive this stage and engage with them as they are learning.

This is a great time to (continue to) read books with your little one. Ideally, you will have been reading the same books over the past two years so hopefully you can pause and let your little one fill in the words they know by now!

You can also incorporate music into their language at this age. Try to imitate the sound of a car as it zooms by. Then make the sound of a train. And an ambulance. You can also incorporate barns into this phase and teach kiddos the sounds of various animals!

Continue to help your child learn to attend to a task (stay with a specific task) for longer periods of time. Engage with them in games and see if you can extend the period of time they stay in tune with you. Most of all, try to have some fun!!

Communication: 12-18 months

Twelve to eighteen months old is a time where your little one’s communication is really starting to take off! This is a time to really invest in communicating with your little one and help them identify the objects they want to talk about. As they point at objects, make grunting noises while looking in a direction, etc you can take those opportunities to narrate what they are interested in! You can say “oh I see that big tree. That tree is big. That tree has leaves.” etc. Try to stay with them on whatever topic for as long as they are engaged. When they switch to point to something else, you can begin to narrate that instead.

If possible, try to use the same words for the things you talk about: cup, potty, mama, dada, tree, light, etc. If you are giving directions, ideally you can give them in short two word phrases so they can begin to pick up on these as well!

Toddlers this age also enjoy mirroring and playing games with their caregiver. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Peek-a-boo

  • Pat-a-cake

  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

You can sing the words to this song or game and then pause to see if they will finish the song or do the motion.

This is also a great age to start modeling pretend play! You can pretend to put on your shoes, mix up cake batter in a bowl, talk on the phone, etc. Again, we are not speech pathologists or therapists but we wanted to share some ideas to get you started communicating with this age!

Communication: 6-12 months

The six to twelve month time frame is when babies communication becomes even more fun! Even if they are not babbling a ton, they are now able to hear and process so many words/sounds! They will begin to turn their heads towards noise, recognize words and begin to babble (gaga, baba, dada, etc). This is also usually when the fight for who gets their name said first (mama or dada) begins!!

Your little one is beginning to understand cause/effect and this can lead to a greater understanding that they have a voice and can use it to cause things to happen! It becomes even more important for the mom/dad/caregiver to label things (ball, water, milk, more, please, all done, etc) so the little one can begin to make word associations with actions and items.

As they near 12 months, you can begin playing peek-a-boo and singing familiar songs. You can take pause during part of the song or game and see if your little one will make a noise to tell you they want to keep playing. Then you can resume the song or game and take pause a few minutes later. This all teaches them how to engage and communicate!

This is also the time that you can begin to teach sign language (if you choose) if your little one is not as verbal. You can show them that rather than just crying, they can make a calm gesture and receive what they are looking for. Often, teaching word associations or baby sign language can decrease the amount of whining and fussing you hear.

Lastly, this is a great time to practice narration. As you are making breakfast or washing dishes, etc you can narrate your own behavior in short phrases so your little one learns more vocabulary. It can feel odd but it is a great way to get your little one exposure to a variety of words!

Communication: 0-6 months

When a mama is in labor, great relief often comes once they hear the cries of their newborn baby. It is at that moment we exhale and realize “thank goodness, my little one is here; he/she is alright.”

Communication is foundational to any relationship and it is in those early newborn days that we are helping our little ones learn the basics of communication. Through our facial expressions, eye contact (or lack thereof), and voice, they begin to learn how to interpret and understand the world.

From the very beginning, you can teach your little one that they have a voice by responding when they cry. Baby cries, mom/dad/caregiver responds. Baby cries, mom/dad/caregiver responds. This is the very basis of both attachment and communication. It is never too early to teach your little one that they have a voice and it can be heard!

It is also so important in the early days to make sure that your little one is able to see your face. This is how they take in and process information. You can coo with your little one, repeat their noises back to them once they begin to make noises, and exaggerate your mouth movements.

In a day where our phones are ever present around us, we believe it is even more important to recognize how much face time/voice time we are giving to our little ones. Do your best to have intentional times during the day when your phone is off set from you so you can focus on looking your little one in the eyes and communicate with them!

Communication: Through the Ages

Communication is a huge part of life; you could even say it is foundational. From the moment our little ones enter the world, they are communicating with us and we are communicating with them. This connection & conversation will take us all the way through early childhood, school aged years and into adulthood. We all likely know how important it is to communicate with our little ones! We are by no means speech pathologists or communication experts but this month we wanted to take time to talk more in depth about the special opportunities we have to communicate with our children (and each other!) through the early childhood years.

Developmental Milestones: Opinions and Wills

The dreaded “NO” comes out of your toddlers’ mouth for the first time and you are shocked!  How could my baby say such a thing!?  Surely it wasn’t me that taught her that awful word?  Well, chances are that they did hear it from us!  We try so hard not to say it to them, but we still do...or a sibling lets them in on the secret!  We try not to overreact on the off chance that they think it’s funny and start repeating it, but it’s so hard to know what to do.  When toddlers are around 18 months - 2 years old, their wills really begin to develop.  Often, this can be during the same time period that you are transitioning to a toddler bed or big kid bed.  The added layer of having their opinions thrown into the mix can be very difficult.  We always recommend coming up with a game plan with your partner, if you have one, and sticking to it!  No matter what the toddler throws at you, you know you can remain consistent to their threats and wills!  

Developmental Milestones: Throwing/Hitting

Am I the only one who’s ever been smacked on the mouth with a hotwheel car?  When I was at the dentist last week he asked me if I remembered chipping my tooth.  I answered no at the time and was so confused, but then on my walk home I remembered when my youngest had just learned to hit and practiced his newest skill on my face.  My lip swelled up and I cried.  It had been a while since physical pain from one of my children made me cry!  Please tell me I’m not alone!?  

So how do we navigate this new found skill without getting hurt or getting wrapped up in this irritating behavior!?  One thing I always try to remember is that my toddler isn’t trying to hurt me.  He’s testing my response to what this arm movement will do.  I always respond with saying “gentle hands” and showing my toddler the type of touch that I would prefer instead of getting hit.   He usually laughs or smiles in sheer delight that he is interacting with me and we share a moment of connection together.  

Hang in there mommas and daddas! This phase will pass...but sometimes not as quickly as the physical milestones! 

Developmental Milestones: Walking

Nothing is more exciting that seeing your baby walk for the first time!  However, those weeks leading up to the big event can be difficult on baby and parents/caregivers.  Some babies get frustrated with not being able to walk and can whine or seem needy with their caregiver.  Others just practice their steps with determination on their own!  You can walk alongside your baby while holding their hands to help them practice the skill, or you can stand out in front of baby and see if they will let go and take those first steps between the furtniture on their own!  If you find baby is having a hard time sleeping because they are practicing their budding skill of walking during a nap, you can use a similar technique to when baby is pulling up on the side of the crib if he or she is walking around in the bed (we have rarely experienced that!).  Simply go in if baby is crying or upset and lay him or her back down in the crib.  You will continue to do this until baby falls back to sleep.  Here’s to getting through this milestone quickly and with patience!! 

Developmental Milestones: Words!

It’s crazy to think that some babies start saying their first words and sounds related to words around 6 months of age.  Babies can begin those clear words (“mama”, “dada”, etc.) around 9 months of age and the repertoire can continue to flourish from 12-18 months of age.  We do find that sometimes these word explosions can affect baby’s sleep negatively if they don’t have healthy, established rhythms already.  Baby can wake up in the middle of the night or during a nap chatting away and practicing his or her new words!  If baby is happy and not crying, we would recommend allowing baby to practice their words and then put themselves back to sleep on their own (if happy).  We usually see things go pretty well after a few nights of practicing the new language skills!