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The Importance of Small Talk

Girl pouting

Providing a rich broth for your child's simmering "alphabet soup" of verbal abilities is often as simple as focusing on what she's interested in. A tiny nature lover might rush to the garden yelling, "Look, Mommy -- flowers!" Use this opportunity by responding, "Yes, the pretty yellow flower is a marigold, and the red flower is a rose. Here's a tulip."

What you should try to avoid is foisting too much knowledge on your little one or using concepts that are beyond her comprehension. Likewise, simply responding with a "yes" or a "hmmm" (as is often easier) won't add very much to your child's knowledge or encourage her curiosity.

Show your child that you are indeed listening to -- and responding to -- her attempts to communicate. Don't jump to correct her when she misspeaks. If she says, "That witch was the baddest of all," you might agree and repeat the thought correctly: "Yes, that witch was the worst one in the puppet show. She was really bad."

In your eagerness to stimulate your child's development, don't feel compelled to respond to every vocalization he makes. Your 2-year-old may provide a running commentary to much of his play in the form of words and sound effects. Also, you might hear him practicing words while he's lying in bed, at night or early in the morning when he first wakes. Learning involves repetition, and your child may frequently repeat words and phrases to himself in a kind of verbal exercise session.

During this year, your child will begin to address a wider audience. She'll move from talking mostly to an adult or to herself to directing her vocalizations at peers. Therefore, providing your child with opportunities to play with other children will help stimulate her language skills, especially if she has no verbal siblings to vocalize with.

Nursery rhymes and sing-along songs that introduce simple concepts and repeat key phrases, like "Old MacDonald's Farm," can also help to enrich your child's vocabulary. As she nears age 3, you can start to play guessing games such as "Who am I?" In this game, one person says, for example, "I live on a farm. I'm black and white, or maybe brown, and I make milk and eat grass. Who am I?"

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.