Reading to children helps develop their speech.

Teaching Toddlers the Difference Between Yes & No

by Jaime Vargas-Benitez

Most toddlers have no problem using the word no and do so frequently. In an article for "Psychology Today," psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Paul C. Holinger wrote that a toddler's no can indicate anything from distress to anguish. It is important to teach toddlers how to correctly use yes and no as a foundation for good communication. This can be accomplished through playing, during story time and in discipline.

1. Learning Through Play

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stresses the importance of interaction in teaching children. In their National Infant and Child Care Initiative, they outline methods that are effective in helping children learn. Using playtime as a way to teach yes and no to toddlers is often effective. For example, a caregiver holds up a toddler's favorite ball and asks, "Do you want to play with this ball, yes or no?" This method reinforces yes and no to the child by using props they understand. Adding a nod and a head shake with the yes and no helps to further reinforce the concept.

2. Using Story Time

The National Education Association recommends using picture books to help toddlers learn vocabulary. Asking them if they want to hear a particular story is one method of introducing the concept of answering yes and no questions. Also, using flap books during story time can offer an opportunity to teach yes and no. Caregivers can ask the child if they want to open the flap themselves. They can also ask the child questions like, "Is that a tiger under that flap?" Story time offers an opportunity for quiet, peaceful interaction with toddlers, a perfect learning environment for language skills.

3. Using Discipline To Teach Yes And No

The Ask Dr. Sears website recommends utilizing discipline as a method of teaching yes and no to toddlers. It is recommended to use yes and no to reinforce whether behaviors that are appropriate and acceptable. Parents or caregivers are also encouraged find ways to say yes to a toddler as often as no, to better reinforce the meanings of both words. When telling a toddler no to a certain activity or object, adults can redirect them, giving a yes answer to another activity or object. The more this is verbalized to the child, the better they will understand the meanings of yes and no.

4. Connecting Language And Behavior

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends asking toddlers questions requiring yes or no answers. The association notes that when parents use gestures like head nodding toddlers associate the physical action with the language. This teaches communication where there is not yet developed speech. According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, children who have even just one or two words to use when frustrated are less prone to temper tantrums. When a toddler has mastery over simple words like yes and no, it can become much easier to get to the root of what is bothering them in the heat of the moment.

About the Author

Jaime Vargas-Benitez has been a parenting writer since 2010. She has worked in the child wellness field in various roles for over 20 years. Along with the experiences of raising her own kids, she has been privileged enough to participate in the raising of hundreds of other children as well.

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