How to get your toddler talking: Fun with Words

Jan 3, 2016

Language is learned through interactions; the more your child interacts with you the more they can learn from you. What makes a toddler want to interact with an adult? They may have a problem they hope the adult can solve, such as hunger or wet clothes. But once their needs are met, what keeps them with us? One of the best ways to make a toddler want to spend time with us is to be fun! In this post I’ll share a third great strategy to get your toddler talking. Your child will love this one!


Toddlers want to be with people who make them laugh, surprise them, play with them, and make them feel good. Play – or any other type of interaction – will last longer and be better when a toddler enjoys it. That means more opportunities to learn language; having fun is about learning too.

Body language and intonation

Our tone of voice and facial expressions are so important to our little ones, especially when they are in the early stages of learning to understand language. When spending time together, try to smile and make eye contact and generally use your face and voice to show how much you love your little one. We get tired, of course, and we can’t do this 24-7, but try it when you can. Let your toddler see that she is the light of your life!

During playtime, grab your toddler’s attention with some overacting. Play words like bang, boom, pop and wow are great for this, as you play with blocks or bubbles, for example. Act as though the game you’re playing is really fun, and your toddler is more likely to want to join in, and join in for longer. Using a loud, expressive, sing-song intonation for certain words and phrases can make them fun for first-words learners, and encourage repetition.

Choose fun

In my post on play, I suggested that playtimes work best when we choose activities that our little ones enjoy. This is crucial, but it doesn’t mean we should do the same old games day after day. That would not be fun! We don’t really know whether our little ones will enjoy an activity until we try it out together, so try new things often.

When choosing activities for toddlers, remember their current abilities and interests. Can they follow instructions? Can they play with more than one object at once? Do they like to imitate or to invent? Do they have the motor skills the activity requires? Very often, when a small child avoids doing a certain activity, it’s too difficult for her, and that means it isn’t fun. I’m not saying we shouldn’t challenge our children. It’s a good idea to try out games for the next stage up, but take it slowly and if they don’t enjoy the game, then don’t push them. Balance times where you give instructions with chances for your little one to take the lead. Aim to take turns in creating the play, rather than always being the director or the follower.

Play with words

So what’s the language pay-off in all this? It comes from making our interactions verbal, using simple, repetitive language in play with first-words learners, building up the complexity as their skills develop. Make words an integral part of your play, whether that means sounds like ‘Wheee!’ and ‘Vrrrm vrrrm’, or more complex language, like describing how the play dough feels as you mold it together or talking about why the little girl in the dollhouse is excited. You can teach your little one through these interactions that words are not just useful, they’re fun. Your child will want to use them, and the possibilities for play and communication will keep on growing.


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