Questions and Comments
One of the best ways to encourage language learning in toddlers is to balance questions with comments. Questions tend to be conversation stoppers. In other words, after the person answers the question, the conversation can end.
Comments, on the other hand, add information. When we comment, we add language to whatever our child is interested in. That way they hear the words associated with the exact thing they are paying attention at that exact moment. That’s how language learning happens! The longer you keep the interaction going, the more opportunities for language learning.
Questions can easily be turned into comments. For example, instead of saying, “Are you eating an apple?” I can say “You are eating an apple. It looks so juicy!” Now not only is my child, hearing “apple,” they are learning the words associated with an apple such as “juicy.”
One of the questions we tend to ask toddlers is, “What is that?” While there is nothing wrong with this question, it misses out on valuable opportunities to add language. “What is that?” tends to be a conversation stopper than a conversation builder. Not to mention, nobody (even toddlers) want to be asked obvious questions. If they don’t know the word, this is an opportunity to teach, not quiz. You may be surprised how many words you hear when you start adding comments!
Here are ten things to say to a toddler instead of “What is that?”
- Name the item: “It’s a ball!”
- Add an describing word: “That ball is big!” (adding big arms)
- Add an action: “That’s a ball…it rolls!” (add a gesture)
- Add a function: “That’s a ball…you throw it!”
- Add a pronoun: “That’s your ball. This is my ball!” (point to your toddler and yourself)
- Add a color “That ball is blue”
- Give a compliment: “I like that ball!”
- State a fact: “I have a ball too! See?”
- Start game: “Let’s play with your ball!”
- Make a fun noise: “That ball goes bounce, bounce bounce”
Brooke Andrews, M.A. CCC-SLP is owner of The Speech Dynamic and offers speech therapy in homes and schools across Houston. Brooke specializes in speech and language development to toddlers and preschoolers and provides in-home speech therapy to families in Houston.