Communication begins from birth, with babies using sounds, gestures, body movements, and facial expressions to express themselves. Quickly, toddlers start using words in their communication, from using single words to combining words into phrases and sentences. Toddlers will also start to follow simple instructions and requests.
Babies and toddlers will continue to develop their communication skills through meaningful interactions with adults. These are some simple ideas that can support your child’s communication development:
Engage your child through everyday interactions and play
Time is always in shortage for parents! However, it is not necessary to set aside time to “teach” your
child how to communicate. Everyday activities in your child’s routine provide many opportunities for
In your everyday interactions with your child, engage in a lot of labelling (i.e. naming) of objects or
actions, and make many comments about what you are doing with your child. This exposes your
child to a great deal of language and also helps him/her link the words they hear with the actual
object or action.
For example, you can talk with your child about what you see on your daily commute to school (e.g.
“Look at this tall tree! I love all its green leaves.”). You can also narrate what you are doing as you go
about your routine activities (e.g. “I’m pouring juice into my red cup.”). Ensure that you bring your
child’s attention to the object or action that you are talking about.
An important activity in your child’s life is play! Play is the primary way for children to explore, learn,
and develop. Joining your child in his/her play also gives you many opportunities to expose him/her
to language. Show your child that you are giving him/her your undivided attention and would like to
join in his/her play. Continue to label, comment, and narrate during these play interactions.
However, ensure that you respect your child’s playtime, and do not disrupt or dictate their play. There
should also be no expectation that your child repeats after you but do praise them and respond
accordingly, if they do.
Create opportunities for your child to make requests
You can further encourage your child to communicate their wants with you by providing toys or
objects that are difficult for him/her to operate or by placing toys in strategic places. Some examples
include offering your child a bottle of bubbles (children often need help from adults to open and play
with bubbles), and placing toys in containers that are clear and difficult to open.
Use a variety of communication methods
Introduce non-verbal communication on top of verbal communication . Encourage the use of facial
expressions, gestures, signs, and visuals where appropriate.
An example is to include hand signs to supplement what you are saying to your child. The use of
signs can help your child understand more language and may also provide him/her the opportunity
to communicate before speech is developed. Be sure to be consistent with the sign used and to pair
the sign with the word every time you say it.
Children observe adults very carefully. All interactions with your child provide you the opportunity to
model language and communication skills. You can model what they can say when they do not have
the words to express themselves appropriately yet (e.g. you say, “I see that you don’t like it when we
do that. It makes you upset.” for when they cry), or when they say something inaccurately (e.g. your
child says, “Ball I like.”, and you reply, “Yes, I like ball too!”). Again, there should be no expectation
for your child to repeat.
Do try it for yourself!
Remember, if you need any support the Treetop team are here to help.