Please Note: You should always consult a professional and get your child assessed if you are concerned about their development. These are just suggestions which you can incorporate into your everyday interactions with your child.
The Hanen information sheets (which are attached in the files section) give some ideas on building language with children that are toddlers. The other sheet (daily routines) gives some ideas of words you can incorporate into dressing, bathing etc.
- We found the following techniques to work at the toddler age:
- Remember to count all consistent sounds as words. For example, he may not be saying the actual word drink but uses the same sound every time for drink as these are counted as words at this age (toddler age)
- Start writing down what words or sounds he is saying, this gives a good foundation of you recognising him picking up new words and also which sounds he prefers to use or doesn’t use. You may be surprised at how many words your child is actually saying.
- Observe, waiting and listening is really important at his age. Observe and pay attention to exactly what he is interested in and trying to tell you, these are often non-verbal cues to start with, you can then follow his lead on what interests him. Waiting is a powerful tool because it will give them an opportunity to initiate words, sounds or a non-verbal voice. Listening helps children know we are paying attention to them and also allows us to respond as best we can. Often children will yell out and we are in the middle of something and not really listening, but if we actually stop what we are doing, get down on their level and listen they are a lot happier and it also helps the parents open up new learning and interactions with them. This is not easy when a million and one things are going on, it takes work but is worth recognising how you are interacting with your child.
- Be face to face and get down on their level, this isn’t always possible but does show him your engaged and want to hear him.
- Follow their lead eg if he wanders over and starts playing with cars, see what he does and then join in, adding words to what he is doing eg repeating car, truck, holding it up to them or pointing to what he is holding. Then say what are you holding/playing with?
- Comment or label everything you do, name the toys, objects, clothes etc that is around them or they are playing with/using. Talk and repeat yourself all the time, if you put on their shoes repeat many times this is (name of your child) shoe and hold it in front of his eyes so he can see what you are talking about. Then you would pause and say ‘this is (name of child)…..’ and wait until you get some response, sometimes the response may be looking away as he doesn’t know or he had lost interest, no matter the answer you would say yes this is (say child’s name) shoe or whatever object it is.
- Describe the actions he is doing eg. (child’s name) is walking and keep repeating it. Become a narrator for his actions or your actions eg. Mummy is running the bath, mummy is eating an apple ect
- Also talk about what you can see, like, Mummy can see a tree, mummy can see a bird and then say can (child’s name) see a bird?, what can you see?
- While changing his nappy, or clothes name and point to body parts
- At a toddler age it’s all about talking a lot and repetition, and then pausing to see how he responds. You might hold up an apple and say mummy has an…. pause and see if he gives any response, then you say, mummy has an apple.
Physiotherapy – core muscles
It’s about exercises or activities that engage the core muscles, this then helps support and build muscles around eg legs, arms, sitting stamina etc.
Age appropriate indoor play centres are great, as when they are exploring and climbing they are constantly using their core muscles and they can spend a very long time at play centres
- Parks or stairs are good. They are continually engaging in their core muscles, even if they are crawling up the stairs.
- Little bikes where they have to push themselves along. When old enough balance bikes are fantastic and help them to later ride a bike without training wheels.
- Using a tunnel is a very good core muscle builder (can get them from Kmart). These are great as every time they get down to crawl through them they are engaging their core muscles, they then stand up at the other end and run to the start and crawl through again
- If you carry your child (not always easy with a toddler), carry him lower on your hip, leaning him backwards a little bit so he must work his core muscles to stay close to you
- Try swings at the park without a back on them, try short turns and gradually increase how many times you swing them each park visit.
- Bouncy balls are great (the large ones you can sit on). Sit your child on it, hold the top of his thighs and bounce him up and down, gently to start with and gradually get faster, make sure he doesn’t hold onto you or the ball. You can then start rolling the ball around gently once he gets the hang of bouncing so he must learn to stabilise his balance using his core muscles.
- When laying down on his back, grab his arms and pull him up to sitting, sing row, row, row your boat with them, they love it. Do this exercise frequently, several times a day it is such a good core muscle builder. Do it about 5 times gradually increasing your resistant so he must try and pull himself up, it can very tiring by the last one.
- Sit him on your lap facing you, wobble your knees side to side or move both up and down. He will love the one on one time looking at you but he is also working his muscles.
- Wheelbarrow race. See if he can push himself up onto his arms, you grab his legs and walk him forward. Start holding just at the hips first and as he gets stronger move your hands further down his thighs and legs. See how far he can go, this is something to do in short bursts and gradually builds up.
Occupational Therapy – fine motor
Here are a few little things you can do and start working on to build a toddler’s fine motor skills:
- Play with playdough, encourage him to use his pinchers (index finger and thumb). Encourage rolling, cutting with playdough scissors
- Painting, drawing, encourage him to grab the paintbrush and texter in the web of his hand
- Using beads to thread with is a great way to use his pinchers and fine motor muscles
- Get him to help in the kitchen, stirring, putting things in bowls, getting out cutlery etc You can get kids knives which aren’t sharp and are very safe, kids love helping. You can also build on language at the same time by talking about the food you are preparing and what you are making and what utensils you are using.
- As he gets older establish a hand dominance, best way is to always give him something down his midline and see which hand he grabs it with first, if he always grabs with his left encourage use with the left for that entire activity e.g. painting and vice versa if grabbing with right hand. This will help at schools with writing. This is something to look at around and ensure is being established by 3-4 years old.