The most difficult part of answering a “wh” questions is actually knowing the meaning of the “wh” word. For instance, you have to know that “who” is asking for a person, “where” is asking for a place, “what” is asking for a thing, “when” is referring to a time, and “why” is asking for a reason. “When” and “where” may still be too complicated for this age, but it’s always good to throw it in here and there.
When talking about “who” you can stick to basic things like looking through a photo album to label family members names or you can make it harder as in “Who drives a bus?”. Visual support is always welcome at this age and can be in the form of pictures, illustrations in books, videos, etc. And remind them that “who” is asking for a person.
As for “what”, it could be as simple as asking “What is this?” while using a flashcard, reading a book, etc. This usually only encourages a one-word response since it is not open-ended. You can make it slightly more complicated by saying “What do you see?”, “What do you need?”, etc. This allows for them to use a start phrase such as “I see a duck”. You can then go onto more difficult questions such as “What does a cow say?”, “What do you wear when it’s hot?”
When referring to “where” they have to know that you are asking about a place, so we find that when you’re walking down the street, driving, etc. it is helpful to talk about where you are going. You can even talk about the immediate here and now and ask “Where are you right now?” (e.g. – at home, in the car, in the stroller, etc.). It also gradually helps them understand concepts that are not tangible such as “Where is daddy?” (e.g. – work, on a business trip, etc.) – actual pictures of daddy at his workplace would also be great!
Oh boy!! Have you entered the Terrible Twos yet? We have here! Yes it might be early, but we are in the depths of it. Crying, screaming, hitting, laying yourself on the ground – you name it. It’s actually a very natural phase. Although we see it as negative behavior, it is really more a phase for your toddler to use their voice, gauge their power, and see what they can get away with.
We like to think of the first step in speech and language fashion. Let’s say you see your child gradually becoming upset and you want to try to prevent it from escalating. You can start off by saying “I know you’re feeling sad Johnny took the toy from you. Why don’t we go over there and try to ask for it back? And then once you play with it for 5 minutes we can give him a turn”.
If you see the behavior getting out of control what we often like to do is to take him away from the situation to get the attention off. At this point we feel that ignoring works best (making sure they are not hurting themselves of course).
Once they calm down (it make take 5-10 or more minutes!), we always find that praising them for good behavior such as keeping their body calm, calming down, keeping their hands down, standing up, etc. is the way to go. Keep it simple while using positive language such as “Good keeping your feet down!”. This way you are reinforcing positive behavior and not negative behavior. Different techniques of course work for different children, but in our case we’ve seen the explanation of feelings in the beginning greatly diminish negative behavior. We wish you all the luck in the world! 😉
You are probably at the point where you might be in an elevator and a stranger asks your child “What’s your name?”. Your child may not answer right now, but it’s a great time to practice holding a basic conversation.
You can start off with a basic greeting of “Hi” and waving. You can then move onto answering, “What’s your name?” and if they do not answer, model their name. You can practice it in front of a mirror and point to them so they understand what a “name” means. We also found that holding up a picture of just his face helps.
The next step is to go over their age, which may still be a difficult concept. Since they are almost two you can begin asking “How old are you?” and modeling “two”. Holding up the number may be helpful, so they can relate it to a visual. Counting up to two and emphasizing two may also help. Many times when people ask “how” questions to a toddler the child automatically thinks “how many” and begins counting, so when you model the answer “two” make sure to say it right away. Other than that you can also go over basic question and answer pairs such as “How are you?” and “Good”.
When your child begins to ask question it is certainly the cutest thing on Earth! It might not even start as the word and they may just hold their hands up as if to ask where. They are basically copying what they see us do. In order to promote questions such as “where” things or people need to disappear!
We find that using naturally occurring opportunities is always a great way to target “where”. Let’s say in your household one parent goes to work in the morning and you practice saying “Bye Bye”… after that person leaves ask “Where did ____ go?”. The more consistent you are with your language, the more likely they will try to imitate it and then ultimately say it independently. Also, do not hesitate to talk about where Mommy and Daddy actually are. They of course do not fully understand the concept of work, shopping, errands, etc. yet, but it’s teaching them that when people ask “where” it is referring to a place. It also helps give them a sense of time and routine (e.g. – we run errands in the afternoon).
And there are of course the millions of language opportunities that you can intentionally create, which is great for practicing object permanence. For instance, you can keep it simple and use a blanket and have a block disappear under the blanket and then ask “where” while also doing a confused gesture. You can also do more involved activities such as creating a sensory bin filled with rice, beans, grass, leaves, etc. Hide some of their favorite objects inside or magnets, animals, shapes, letters, etc. Before looking you can model “where” once again and then comment on what you find within the sensory bin. It’s a great vocabulary building activity!
A great way to achieve 2-3 word phrases is to learn words other than nouns. This can include prepositions, adjectives, etc. This week we will talk specifically about using size descriptor words to expand phrases.
The first step as always is modeling what you want your child to say. In terms of size, “big” always seems to stand out. Try to find huge items in the home or outside such as big chair, big slide, etc. to comment on. A tip is to also make a big deal about it in order to emphasize it – “Wow look that’s a big moon!”. They may initially imitate the word “big”, so keep adding onto that word by verbally modeling such as “Yes it’s a big step”, “You’re right that’s a big orange”, etc.
Once they get the hang of that you can target the opposite “small”. We like to target this by starting with a big piece of fruit and cutting it up into smaller pieces to show them the difference. It’s a great activity to do with play dough as well! And feel free to use synonyms such as “tiny” when you’re teaching size. Other size concepts later on could be short vs. tall, wide vs. narrow, etc.
We recently did a post about building phrases with “me” and “mine” such as “my shoes”. Your child is very observant and he or she is beginning to know what specific items belong to certain people. Often many of us are (unfortunately) attached to our phone these days so a common phrase you may hear is “Mommy phone”. The more they see us with an item the more they will associate it with us.
We like to start off with clothing since a jacket, for example, is something we wear every day in the fall/winter. They may be imitating or spontaneously saying “jacket” or “coat”, but you can now begin modeling possession such as “mommy coat”. Other things to target could be toys or other personal items. For instance, you could choose something that belongs to them such as “Roman’s dinosaur”. They may not say the ‘s part quite yet, but just to get them thinking about WHO it belongs to is a big step.
These techniques have also been helpful with behavior. Let’s say your child is trying to rip the papers of a magazine that you are reading. To put an end to this behavior, you can say “This is Mommy’s magazine and this is Roman’s book… we read magazines and books”. The more you use the same language, the more likely they will catch on, listen, and say it back!
As parents, we of course don’t love when a major spill happens or when our child is crying because they can’t get something out! However, these situations often lead to lots of spontaneous language! For instance, if water spills your child may say “Uh oh wet!”.
During our speech therapy sessions, we love creating “uh oh” situations on purpose. For instance, we may build a tower and then intentionally make it fall to see what the child says. Or we may put a desired item in a jar, close the lid really tightly, and hand it to the child. This gives them an opportunity to ask for “help” or perhaps use a descriptive word like “stuck”. We advise parents to take a look at their day and think of a few instances where they can cause a structured “uh oh” whether it be during mealtime, bath time, or playtime. It could be as simple as making an item fall down from the high chair and modeling “fall down”. And if things happen naturally take it as an opportunity to model the appropriate language.
And great news – we have an “Uh Oh” iBook coming out soon, which will show videos of “things going wrong” to encourage commenting. Be on the lookout!