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!
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!
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We come across many parents that are not worried about the amount of words their child has, but about how they produce the words. In most cases – especially this early on – it is nothing to worry about. For example, our son produces “awdi” for “horsie” – his favorite animal. This is a natural occurrence and is simplification of hard sounds – very clever actually! It is called phonological processes. We wanted to let you know what is normal for this age and what to expect. They normally disappear by the age of 3-5 depending on the phonological process. Here it is below:
Stopping – bus → bud
Weak Syllable deletion – banana → nana
Fronting – cup → tup
Devoicing – bed → bet
Final consonant deletion – boat → boa
Cluster reduction – star → tar
Gliding – rope → wope
At this point your child is trying to imitate sounds and words. They may even be saying quite a few words on their own. Some may also be trying out phrases they’ve been hearing you say the past 18 months. It is a fact that every child is different, but one piece of advice is to keep your language consistent to make it easy for your child to understand, store in their memory, and someday use on their own. Here are some phrases that we often hear toddlers say early on and ones you might want to emphasize on a daily basis.
– Hi/Bye Bye + person/item
– All done
– Clean up
– More + item
– No + item
– I want + item
– Person + up/down
– Come + person
– Turn on/off
– Help me
– Put in/on
– Take off
– Out + person
– Open/close door
– Here you go
– Turn the page
– Wait + person
– Where + person/item?
– What is it?
– Why + person?
We love using traditional toys for play whether it be building blocks, puzzles, dollhouses, etc. But there is also something to be said for items that were not intended to be toys. We often hear parents saying “What’s the point in even buying toys?” and we understand why! There are items all around your house that your children would be more than happy to play with – really gets their creativity going! Here are some ideas ☺
Toilet or Paper Towel Rolls – you can use them as binoculars, microphones, or even attach it to fall and throw things in them and watch them fall down!
Magazines – talk about the pictures, practice cutting, or if they are even younger have them practice ripping the paper
Cardboard Boxes – make it into a car by having your child get in and push it around the house or give them some pens or crayons and let them scribble on it freely
Shoe Boxes – have your child open and close them while putting things in and taking things out…. You can even stack them high!
Bubble Wrap – tape some to the floor and have your child run across it to hear the popping sounds!