What’s going on for baby?

During this stage toddlers will understand more and more language. They will continue to understand more than they can say. They will also use ‘body language’ to get their messages across.

They will express themselves using words and parts of words, and are likely to start to speak in 2-word sentences.

Children exposed to 2 or more languages are able to continue to understand more than 1 language and they are likely to start using words and phrases in their family languages.

Toddlers enjoy and are able to follow a story.

How can parents and whānau help?

  • Look out for signs their child understands. For example, they may point at what parents talk about or go and get something that is mentioned.
  • Comment on these signs and affirm them — ‘Yes, that’s Nana in the photo!’
  • Listen and watch carefully to what their toddler is trying to tell them and be aware of what their own body language might be ‘saying’.
  • Share books to explore their child’s understanding and have conversations like ‘I see a cat. Can you? Where’s the cat?’
  • Encourage their child’s attempts to communicate by looking at them and listening to them. Eye contact is a sure sign someone is listening.
  • If they’re unsure what their child is saying, try saying it back in a questioning way, or try pointing to what they think their child is talking about.
  • Celebrate their first sentences. Encourage more talking by saying ‘yes’ and repeating what their child said, and adding another word or words.
  • This is called ‘stretch talk’. For example, if a child says ‘cat milk’ the parent can say ‘yes, the cat’s drinking her milk’.
  • Speak clearly and face to face in whatever language is being spoken. Check with the child that they’ve understood. If need be, show their toddler what they mean.
  • Have fun with language by sharing books, rhymes and songs.
  • Remember that many repetitions are needed for language pathways in the brain to become permanent. Parents need to keep talking and listening and being patient.
  • Make simple books with and for their child and make book sharing a part of every day.
  • Enjoy looking at, and talking about, family photos together.
  • Be happy to read their child’s favourite book — over and over again.
  • Join the local library.
  • Use SKYPE to read books with whānau who don’t get to visit often.
  • Suggest family members might give books as presents for their child.

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