Essential Social Skills – Conversation 101

A cornerstone of social interaction is good conversation and a building block of good conversation is language acquisition.  Helping your toddler gain language skills is one of your most important tasks as a parent. Things you can do include:

  • Talking with your child. She can’t learn what she doesn’t hear. Just chat about the day, name things and people, and ask rhetorical questions (even if they can’t answer yet, your child will experience the back and forth nature of conversation).
  • Be descriptive. This gives you the opportunity to introduce many simple words that will expand your child’s vocabulary.
    • Describe things by color, shape, position, and direction.
    • Use a variety of action verbs.
    • Introduce words and terms that express time.
    • Give your child the words to express feelings and needs.
  • Model correct speech. Once your child starts talking, it’s time to drop the “baby talk”. Actually, “baby talk” can be dropped before it has begun. Right from the get go it helps your child develop good speech if he hears correct speech all the time.

One of the best ways to help your toddler build his communication skills is by reading together (not just reading to him). Encourage participation by asking him to point out objects in picture books. While he is not saying the words, he is learning their meanings. Cuddling up for a story is part of many nap and bedtime rituals, but include some daytime reading so that your child learns reading is an activity and not just a soother.

Don’t rely on television to teach. Even the best children’s programming is like half of a conversation. There is no feedback with the TV set, so there is no interaction. Some exposure can help reinforce a toddler’s language skills, but television is no substitute for talking and reading.

One of my great joys as a parent was talking with my kids. Even when they were infants and toddlers we would “talk” all the time. As they grew older and could contribute more to the conversation I obviously enjoyed it even more. But the times we spent “talking” before they could speak set us up for hours of conversation throughout their childhood and teen years.

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