How to Get My Toddler to Combine Words: Part 3
In this post, allow me to further elaborate on how you can encourage word combinations by strategically expanding those single word utterances.
Are you ready?
Toddlers’ initial word combinations are not entirely random. In fact, many toddlers like to talk about the same things. These favorite types of words tend to emerge before other words for reasons related to cognitive development, basic needs and wants, personal preferences, and social, cultural mores. But, here's the thing - these favorite words can be used to help your toddler combine multiple words together.
For our purposes, let's refer to this list as FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS. Here they are:
1. Names of things, people, and places (especially things, people, and places that are special and important)
Special people (e.g. Mommy, daddy)
Special things (e.g. favorite doll or stuffed animal)
Special places (e.g. home, park, grandma's house)
2. Actions (especially funny and unexpected ones)
What people are doing (e.g. "Daddy eat’”)
What things receive an action (e.g. “Anna fell” - think of the beginning of Frozen.)
3. Locations of things and people and where an action takes place
Where people and things are located (e.g. “Mommy here”)
Where an action took place (e.g. “in crib”)
4. Differences of opinions or preferences
When they don’t want to do something (e.g. “No!”)
When they disagree (e.g. “No!”)
When they want to deny or reject anything you say (e.g. “No!”)
5. Possessions (especially personal ones)
When something belongs to them, NOT you (e.g. “My” or “mine”)
When something belongs to someone else that they know (e.g "Mommy's shirt" or "Daddy's sock")
6. Amusing words and sounds
May include words like: “Stinky”, “poop”, “boo”, “tickle, tickle”, "messy", or “roar”. For more funny sounds, read Using Fun Sounds to Encourage Toddler Communication
7. Simple social words
Many toddlers are encouraged to say “Hi” and “Bye” because parents train them at young age to be friendly and nice.
Strategically bombard your child with specific words from the FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS to help him or her communicate essential needs, wants, and desires.
Tack on words from the FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS list to the single words that he or she is already consistently and regularly saying.
For instance if your child says, “doggie” every time you go for a walk (perhaps your neighbor has a dog and you see it on every walk?), expand on it by saying, “Hi , doggie” or “Bye, doggie” every time you see a dog. Having him say "Hi, doggie" or "Bye, doggie" is a nice way to encourage word combinations via simple social words (FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS #7). Since he already has "doggie" in his expressive repertoire and you're interested in having him greet family and friends with a simple hi, you could model "Hi, doggie", etc.
Or, if you want to encourage word combinations via the location of things (FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS #3) every time you help dress your child use the same phrases like, “Shirt on”, “Pants on”, or “Shoes on”. This will clearly teach your child that his shirt is on his body, his pants are on his legs, and his shoes are on his feet.
Eventually, you saying a particular phrase, like “Hi, doggie”, “Bye, doggie”, “Shirt on”, “Pants on”, will become part of the routine and your child will internalize it and eventually attempt to say it too.
These are just two examples of how to strategically bombard your child with some FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS. It's your job (or your amazing speech therapist's) to figure out which types of words from the FAVORITE TODDLER WORDS will help your child communicate most effectively and efficiently.
One last thing before I go - expect them to imitate your word combinations after hearing them several times. Then, one day soon you will be pleasantly surprised to hear them say the word combinations when you least expect it!
As always, I hope this has been helpful.
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