How Do Toddlers Communicate?

how do toddlers communicate

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Toddlers don’t always communicate through words. They can also communicate through crying and their body language. Understand how your toddler communicates at every stage of growth, and learn to communicate with her. Read our simple guidelines to make this journey of words pleasant and enjoyable for both of you.





A child starts communicating as soon as she is born. Crying is the first step of communication. It may seem like a simple crying spell to you, but she is actually conveying her needs (to be fed, cleaned or comforted) to you. And as she grows older, her communication skills will only get better. With her squeals of joy, cooing and babbling, she reaches another milestone in her communication journey. She soon starts recognizing things and looks at them when you ask for them. E.g. Where is your bottle? She may look at the bottle to convey her understanding of the word/question.

Between 12 and 15 months, your toddler learns a few words like ‘ma-ma’, ‘pa-pa’, and other routine words like ‘water’ or ‘pani’ that help her in communicating her needs to you. With a combination of words and gestures, she can clearly indicate her needs. For example, she will start rubbing her eyes or blink them to convey that she wants to sleep, or act cranky because she is hungry. Your child hides behind you when approached by a stranger to convey her fear of new people.




Between ages 15 and 18 months, she can gesture ‘bye bye’ or understand the concept of ‘sit and stand’, ‘in and out’, etc. She can point at different body parts. Her vocabulary improves as well. She can now use up to 20 words when asked. If she has a toy phone, or in case she comes across a real phone, she will talk (incoherently) on the phone as if she is holding a real conversation.

By the time your toddler turns 2 years of age, she begins to use action words. She can express what she sees or wants. ‘No’ becomes an important part of her vocabulary, and it might upset you to listen to a negative word so early. But try to understand that with a ‘No’, your toddler is actually trying to assert her independence. At this stage, she knows and uses more than 100 words. She can sing nursery rhymes, though not very clearly.





At 30 months, your toddler is turning into quite a communicator. She can speak short phrases such as, ‘Mummy, go out’, ‘Go park’, etc. At this stage, do not expect her to be a grammar wizard. At this stage, toddlers leave out adjectives, and other grammatical conventions. You will notice that your toddler mostly uses her name instead of ‘I’ because that’s how you have been addressing her. In a few months, she will also start using pronouns.

You can also help your child in her journey of communication. Here are a few pointers:




1. Talk and Sing to your Child

Your child might not be able to talk to you initially, but that should not stop you from inviting responses from her. Sing nursery rhymes to her. Talk to her as if you are holding a conversation with her. This stream of sounds will encourage your child to start talking.

2. Understanding Gestures

Once your child starts gesturing or pointing at things, it might be difficult for you to understand her. This may frustrate the child for she may be unable to convey what she wants. The best way to overcome this problem is to also start pointing your finger at different objects as her. Ask her ‘What’s over there?’ or ‘Are you showing me a big green ball?’ This shows her that you want to understand, and helps her build her vocabulary at the same time. Even if she can’t answer you, she is learning words from you that she will soon put to use.





Understanding Gestures

3. Complete Her Sentences

If your toddler says ‘Eat’, ‘Go home’ or ‘Baby sleep’, complete her sentences by saying, ‘You want to eat? I will give you something to eat’, or ‘Baby is sleeping now, let’s play with her later.” This will help develop her language skills.

4. Use Real Words

Instead of using baby talk like ‘mum mum’, ‘nom nom’, etc., to signal food, milk or bottle, use real words with your toddler.




5. Give her Simple Directions to Follow

Instead of using complex words, give her simple directions like ‘Go and find your pink hat’ or ‘Keep your shoes in the cupboard’.

6. Correct her Grammar Carefully

Your child is just beginning to work out the basics of grammar. However, she will often get it wrong. Don’t work yourself up because of it. If your child says ‘I eat lunch yesterday,’ don’t rush to correct her . Instead, let her learn the correct language from you. For example, tell her ‘So you ate lunch yesterday?’ This will get the correct language across to her without being corrected.





7. Use Lots of Different Words

Improve her vocabulary by telling her the names of the objects she is playing with, and also by using different words. Whenever you step out, always show her things around you, so that she can understand, learn their names and build her vocabulary.

Although every child develops at a different pace, if by 15 to 18 months, your toddler does not point at things, you should consult her paediatrician. You want to be sure that your child is developing as per the expected milestones, and that it is not a case of language or speech developmental delay.