If you want your toddler to learn to talk, then you better start talking … and listening … and encouraging.

picture of babySome child development experts believe that the more verbal interaction a child has during his toddler years, the better his chances are for being advanced later in life in terms of intellect, language skills, and social development. And I tend to agree.

Communicating with a toddler can be a challenge-sometimes a guessing game, sometimes a frustration, sometimes a laugh riot. But here are some ideas for making the most of those critical early years.

First, talk to your children or grandchild. Even though it happens naturally, we also have to be intentional about it. Even if you aren’t an outgoing, highly verbal person by nature, your toddler will benefit from an ongoing commentary as you spend time together.

Just give a two-year-old-level play-by-play on what you’re doing. It can be as simple as this: “I’m fixing your cereal. Let’s put your bib on so we can eat breakfast. Now, where did that spoon go? Oh, these mashed brussel sprouts are so good!”

Remember, your toddler has an incredible capacity to soak things in right now, and the more words and ideas you run past him, the better.

The next recommendation is strive to be positive. Learning language involves a lot of trial and error, and your child or grandchild will get a lot of words not quite right as she learns to make all the right sounds. She might call a bottle a “baba,” or a lawn mower a “naw-mo”-you just never know.

Once she starts putting sentences together, correct grammar will be even more challenging.

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We should teach our toddlers the correct way to speak, but do so in a positive way. So, instead of saying, “No, that’s not a naw-mo, it’s a lawn mower”-which sends a negative message, affirm your child’s enthusiasm as you correct her. Something like, “Yeah, you like the lawn mower, don’t you?”

You want to help them learn clear communication skills, but you also want to promote a positive attitude about what she is learning. And a positive attitude may be your child’s best asset as she learns about words, ideas, emotions, and her own endless possibilities in life.