Spending time reading to your toddler will expand her vocabulary.

Ways to Enrich Toddlers' Learning & Language Development

by Carly Seifert

During the toddler years, the endless babble of your baby will begin to morph into endless chatter as your little one learns to form coherent words and sentences. Supporting and promoting this language development doesn't require flash cards or fancy toys -- just some focused attention and a willingness to be silly.

1. Gestures

Now is the time to help your wildy gesticulating toddler make the connection between her gestures and language. According to the website KidsHealth.org, you can help her develop this connection by vocalizing her needs when she points to something she wants. Ask her, "Do you want your blanket?" Wait for her response, and then give her the blanket -- encouraging her to be a participant in the conversation while still meeting her needs. Play gesture games and sing songs that require her to identify things using a combination of words and actions, such as "Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes."

2. Talk to Your Child

Though you might feel a bit silly narrating your day to your 2-year-old, the website Zero to Three states that this is exactly what you should do to help him expand his vocabulary. As you go about your daily routine -- cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping or driving in the car -- talk to your toddler. Describe what you are doing and ask him open-ended questions to elicit a response. As he grows in his abilities to converse with you, he will also be gaining confidence in his language skills.

3. Read, Read, Read

According to KidsHealth.org, reading to your toddler is an effective way to expose her to language. When you read her "Hop on Pop" for what seems like the hundredth time, you are not only increasing her vocabulary but also teaching pre-reading skills such as phonemic awareness, left to right direction of text and the letters of the alphabet. Give your independent toddler options when it comes to picking a book to read, and read slowly and expressively to hold her attention and maintain her level of understanding.

4. Music

The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that music activates language and literacy learning in many ways. Children often learn words and even many concepts -- such as letters of the alphabet or counting -- through songs. Your toddler may also hear words that he can understand but can't yet pronounce on his own, thereby increasing his receptive language skills. Many toddler songs also contain rhymes -- which teach toddlers phonemic awareness. Sing well-known nursery rhymes to your little one and let him fill in the blanks: "I'm a little teapot short and ______." Use finger-plays to sing along to songs like "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" or turn up some tunes from another culture as you play along on pots and pans or dance around the room together.

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