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How Can You Help Your Toddler Talk?

Eirian Hallinan has some tips for if your toddler has the opposite problem of that LTD has. Babies, even before they are born have an inbuilt curiosity and interest in human voices. They instinctively want to listen to and concentrate on sounds especially human voices. When you are thinking about how you can encourage your toddler to develop his speech remember this in-built instinct he naturally has.

Talk directly to your toddler as often as you can. Look at him when you are talking so he can see your facial expressions and your gestures. He will get more repetition and explanation when he is alone with you rather than when you are reading to him and another sibling for example.

Talk through the things you are about to do and actions you are making. “OK, let’s go and make lunch, we are going to have carrots and peas and some pie, would you like that?” or when you are taking your toddler for a bath or dressing him say things like, “right, let’s take your jumper off, over your head!” as you take it off and “one sock off, two socks off, wiggle those toes!” By matching your words with your actions your toddler will begin to understand what things mean.

Mirror what you are saying with your facial expressions. When you want a hug from your toddler look at him when you smile and say, “Come here gorgeous boy, Mummy wants to give you a cuddle”. It does not matter that your toddler does not understand every word you say, he will soon associate your overall communication with certain things and actions. If you are about to have dinner, let him see you putting the plates and cups on the table and say “It is dinner time now”. He will soon know what this means and will head to his high chair. Putting tasks, activities and things in context for him will aid him to understand the meanings of things.

The way you express things by your emphasis on words and sentences can make learning to talk more exciting for your child. Certainly your excited expression about seeing a boat or a plane will catch his attention as will your soft, caring expression do when you are stroking a pet. Lots of expression and enthusiasm will motivate your toddler to speak himself and understand what you are saying.

It is important that your child understands that all talking is communication. It will not help him if you talk to yourself or mutter under your breath. He will think that talking can just be meaningless sounds and may not respond to you when you are waiting for him to. If you do not answer him or another family member when they are trying to communicate with you, again he will not understand the importance of talking.

Another good tip during the process of encouraging your little one to speak is to not to have talking on the radio as background noise all day. It is better to have music playing softly. If you are listening to someone speaking on the radio let your toddler see that you are listening and hearing meaningful communication.

You are your child’s interpreter. You understand his language and strangers may not. Your toddler will also understand you much more easily than other people, especially strangers.

Eirian Hallinan has written numerous articles in the parenting field. She believes in healing naturally, first, especially when it comes to infant colic.

The Whisper Farewell

LTD has always been a little on the loud side. He talked early and has taken to enjoying a good scream at least once a day. He has never been shy and is always ready for a loud, high pitched ‘hi’ to friend and stranger a like. However, one thing he has also always done is offer the whisper soft ‘bye-bye’ when leaving. No matter the setting and no matter how loud has acted in that setting upon our exit he always gives a soft ‘bye’ that feels bittersweet as if he truly believes parting is truly a sweet sorrow. Of course there are many times throughout the day where I wished he could take a page out of his bye-bye playbook and not talk at what the teachers call an ‘outdoor’ voice. However, no matter what he does first you can pretty much always forgive his past volume when you hear the whisper goodbye.

I hope that was an S

When LTD began speaking his first words, they were of course not only cute, but simple. Things like up, down, boom, dada, mama and our friend, no. However, over time his vocabulary evolved and seemed to be limitless. For a while there it seemed like he was saying a new word a day and things were amazing. Our son was obviously a genius and we spent each day waiting for a call from Harvard. That all changed when we took him to the Aquarium. After that the only call we got was from Emily Post. I know what you are thinking? But I assure you it’s much worse. For you see in the beginning the little guy had a hard time pronouncing his S’s they were coming out like F’s. Not really a big deal basically cute. However, at the aforementioned Aquarium he saw his first shark. Well, I’m hear to tell you that when some one pronounces the S in shark as an F and does it while speaking toddler it sounds an awful look like a certain very taboo word. A word that makes his swapping of the “e” in deck with an ‘i’ sound quaint. Thankfully, as with most LTD related matters he out grew his letter swapping and now he can say shark clearly in case we find ourselves in mixed company.

What Did He Say?

Before LTD was born, one weekend The Mommy (to be) and I visited friends in Boston. At the time, our friends Kate and Joe had a daughter who was almost two. As the afternoon wore on I noticed that she was saying things and Kate would respond like she understood, while I could only look on with confusion. Turns out when toddlers say certain every day words for things like milk and water only rarely are they clear. However, toddler parents usually know exactly what they are saying due to experience and context. Now that LTD is approaching 24 months he is seemingly learning a million words a day and the only thing preventing him from starring in the Oscar nominated Kings Speech is that he has a wicked hard time enunciating.

Some of the words in the little guy’s repertoire that only The Mommy and I can understand include: “Hummus” translated as “Hass” and “Ahsss” is uttered when he wants applesauce. He says more and more words clearly now, but when he is speaks in a code only we understand I feel like we have a special connection. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that while he knows a ton of correct animal sounds for some reason when you ask him what sound a cat makes he says, “aye.” And don’t get me started on his chicken.

Hello

Hi is perhaps the simplest of greetings. Less formal than Hello and for that reason usually associated with youth. LTD has grown to embrace this salutation on a daily basis. The only real problem is that he tends to abuse the word in practice and meaning. He fails to truly understand it’s full significance by repeating the gesture over and over again. Technically, once you have greeted the person there is little need to greet them again. Surely, if they didn’t know you were addressing them after the tenth Hi, then they never will. Another issue with the little guy’s use of Hi, lies in his also saying it when people leave. Yeah, it is cute the first couple of times, but then he just seems like he ‘doesn’t get it.”

Yet, the greatest use of LTD’s Hi is in the supermarket. While in the shopping cart, he has taken it upon himself to travel down the aisles greeting everyone in the store with a cheerful Hi. Of course, most people smile, say hello or wave. However, a few people (or should I say robots) fail to react at all. When someone doesn’t respond to LTD’s Hi, he engages DefCon 5 and tries to break them. The other day he said Hi to a guy in the store and I think maybe the guy, who was staring at the salsa, didn’t know LTD was talking to him, big mistake. LTD let loose with a barrage of superfast Hi’s with such force and vigor that the guy finally had no choice but to submit. That’s right folks, my son bent a stranger to his will and received his returned Hi. Yes, he says bye-bye but that is for another day.

Put Me in the Zoo

So we have one of those, my son is a genius things on our hands. Even though he isn’t even a year and half old yet, he is capable of reciting Shakespeare. Okay, that is not true even a little bit. However, he is still wicked smart and knows his animals. If you approach LTD and ask him what a cow says, he will answer with the only acceptable answer to that question, Moo. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, it is the cutest thing ever. The only small problem is that the little guy doesn’t open his mouth to form his lips into the o shape, so his moo is pretty muffled, but still awesome. In fact, his moo is so in grained in his system that if you read a book to him and there is a cow in it, he will moo. You don’t even what to know what happens if he sees a cow in real life, the cute police come and it takes forever to fill out the paperwork.

LTD’s vocabulary isn’t limited to bovines. If you ask him what sound a bear makes, he of course growls. The Mommy and I have had his growl analyzed and the scientists feel it is in fact funnier than his moo. Sometimes I even get scared when I hear his growl because I fear a bear is actually on the loose. He is currently working on his quack, which is getting stronger everyday and his oink, which needs a lot of work. The only challenge left is that I don’t know what noise a rhinoceros makes.

Look Who’s Talking Too

51Y8SBE50YL._SL500_AA280_We have talked before about the baby making early speaking sounds like ‘maa’ and ‘baa’, but now it is me who is babbling. It seems taking care of the little guy full time has driven me a tad batty. The good news is that the cheese hasn’t slipped too far off my cracker and I only really have two symptoms of baby caregiver madness. The symptoms are similar; the first is that I talk to myself a lot during the day under the guise of talking to LTD. This practice gives me the illusion that I spend my days with other people and have my own water cooler moments. The problem with my self-chatter is that it appears I don’t always shut it off. My babbling mostly occurs in the car when I say things out loud like, ‘do we take a left turn’ or ‘should we get gas” and the adult passenger replies, ‘how should I know.’ Turns out that I am having trouble switching from speaking out loud and thinking to myself and of course I blame the baby.

The second symptom is a result of sleep depervation and is basically the opposite of the first symptom which is that I think things to myself that I should be saying out loud. For instance, a few weeks ago, while I was in full on zombie mode, I was in my favorite restaurant, Cosi and I was staring that the menu for a long time and the clerk asked me for my order and I said, ‘didn’t I just give it too you’. I actually ordered in my head and thought I was talking to her. Not good. Not good at all. The biggest deal regarding my condition is that I foresee no end in sight. Unless you count the fact that I spend way too much time talking to actual adults like grocery clerks and postal employees who find out pretty quick that it was a mistake to say, ‘hello, how are you?” That’s healthy, right?

The Power of Speech

mossbackfarmaprillambsWe are way past coos and ahhs, LTD has granted us an audience with his melodic voice and blessed us with the gift of lovely words. Is he reciting Shakespeare you ask? Is he presenting the poems of Keats? Is he singing the love theme from Ice Castles? No, he is doing none of these things, but what he is doing is saying, ‘Baa’ and ‘Maa.’ For the last several weeks he has been serenading us with a chorus of ‘baa, baa, baa, baa’ or ‘maa, maa, maa’ and various combinations of each. Normally, he lets loose with a string of them at a time, but what truly cracks The Mommy and me up is when he lets out a lone ‘Baa.’ It feels like LTD uses the string of ‘baas’ to mean one thing and the lone ‘baa’ to mean another. Don’t think I haven’t forgiven him for saying ‘ma-ma’ first instead of ‘da-da’, but I console myself by believing it is a marathon, not a sprint and that he says ‘ma-ma’ when he is looking at the couch.

Little Caesar

egrobinEver since LTD started talking and by talking I mean babbling and mostly saying, baba, he has been making the funniest face when he tries to speak. He tucks in his chin and flattens his lips and cheeks bugrockwhen he says, ‘baba, ya ya.’ The thing is, he looks exactly like classic movie actor Edward G. Robinson when he talks. He also sounds a little bit like him, which is a weird impression since we have never let LTD watch a 30’s gangster film. This performance is particularly amusing as LTD occasionally will go on a talking jag for up to a half an hour. In between babas and ayeahs he also tends to blow raspberries with his lips a practice I don’t believe the late Robinson is known for. So we’ll call it an impression with a twist. The little guy is turning into quite the performance artist. Here’s hoping we get an NEA grant.

Why am I Yelling?

signSo here’s a new one. Lately, LTD has begun to yell, scream and squeal at an incredibly loud and high pitch. Why is doing this, surely he must be in distress? No, he has taken to screaming because he enjoys it. I know this because when I look him in the eye while he is yelling and tell him to shhhh, he smiles and sometimes laughs mockingly. I would tell him to put a sock in it, but he already does as he has also taken to pulling off his socks and trying to swallow them. In fact, as I am writing this he is screaming his high pitched squeal, ‘yeeeeeeeeee.’ The Mommy and I have come to the conclusion that he is either experimenting and exercising his lungs or he loves the high pitched noises and doesn’t know that he is making them. No matter what the reason we can only hope that he grows out of this phase and soon.