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Toddler - Week #92

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Your 21-month-old toddler (week 92)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Vocabulary, Language And Speech
           Congratulations!  You have successfully entered the "one-new-word-a-day" stage, and possibly even the "ten-new-words-a-day" stage.  This month, your toddler will not only begin to rapidly add new words to her vocabulary, but you will also be amazed as she uses old words in new ways.  The "average" 21-month-old can say about 20-50 intelligible words now, understands most daily language, and is able to follow simple two-step directions (when she wants to).  She may also be able to make three-word sentences, or is at least beginning to string words together, and is now truly understanding how useful speech is.

       During the 21st month, your toddler really gets a kick out of taking on challenging words like "dinosaur," "spaghetti," and "helicopter," however the likelihood of them coming out correctly are slim to none.  Fortunately for her (and for you) she is able to create adorable mispronunciations which are sure to bring a smile to your day in the meantime.

       This month, besides making you laugh even more than in the past, your toddler will be able to tell you when she needs help, when she needs a little love, and when she wants to share something that is just down right spectacular.  It is amazing that at 21 months, your little one is now able to interact verbally to have her needs met, to play, or just to be social.  The waiting game is over, and you're finally getting clearer reception into your child's mind, and for now, at least some of the guess work is being taken out.

       The days of a quiet house are long gone, and you can expect to regularly hear from your little rocker, as she loves to sing and may even start humming familiar tunes to herself throughout the day.  Toddlers this age are intrigued by the human voice, especially a familiar one, so don't be shy about joining up with her newly formed garage-band either.  Your 21-month-old's language growth is accelerating full-speed ahead and from this point on, she won't be slowing down, so step it up if you haven't already.

       If you do have concerns regarding your child's language acquisition or comprehension, keep in mind that all children continue to develop speech and vocabulary at different rates, and toddlers who don't talk a great deal yet, soon will.  Some 21-month-old children add new words to their bag every day, some begin to speak in bursts then go through dry spells, and others don't say much until closer to their second birthdays.  This wide range is due to nature, nurture and most importantly due to the individuality you will find amongst all children, so do your best not to compare.  If your toddler does appear to be following the latter of the three types, don't become alarmed, seek out a professional's opinion if it would make you feel better, but remember that she is most likely just paying close attention to everything around her, and storing it all away for her big opening day speech.

       Just a little trivia... Albert Einstein was three when he started to speak, and his Mom and Dad were a little concerned too.


Encouraging Language Development
           Right now you are finally beginning to get a glimpse into what's going on inside of your toddler's little head and no longer playing a continuous guessing game.  During the 21st month, language development finally makes parenting a little bit easier, as it helps your toddler understand that certain actions and words go together.  Most importantly, the dots in your toddler's mind are beginning to connect, and a record of these associations are carefully being stowed away in his mind.  Be prepared to feel so proud when your toddler sees you getting dinner ready and he says "Eat?", or when you say "Time to get in the car!" and he brings you his shoes.

       This month, your focus continues to be teaching your toddler to understand your language while you patiently learn to understand and often interpret his.  Continue to speak clearly and directly to your toddler, talk about daily rituals and routines, and be sure to label everything.  Doing this not only keeps your little one's attention, but it can also help to occupy him when he gets a bit antsy either in the car, at the dinner table, or in line at the grocery store.

       Be prepared for the onslaught of the infamous "What's that?" question more than ever now, because every day it is becoming clearer to your child that everything has a name and his desire and motivation to understand the world around him is insatiable.  When you do have his full attention, like when he comes to you to "chat," take advantage of his curiosity and do some one-on-one teaching.  Learning in general, and language development in particular, is more likely to occur when your toddler wants to do it, not when you want to engage him in a heart-to-heart conversation over dinner.

       You can help to improve your toddler's speech coordination this month, by singing and repeating rhymes.  Silly songs and finger plays stimulate language development while improving memory, and it will encourage him to practice forming words.  Your little one is the most appreciative audience that you will ever have and he doesn't care if you're out of tune, don't know the words, or can't rhyme, so let loose.  Do be sure however, that you are on the look out for words that sound similar but have different meanings, or have more than one meaning altogether.  Nuances like this in the English language can completely confound adults, so you can only imagine what it can do to your little one's mind.

       As in the past, it continues to be very important that you don't put pressure on your 21-month-old to speak if he is still more comfortable pointing and using body language.  For the time being, continue to provide the right words for him that go along with the gestures he is comfortable with using, and be patient.  Also, keep in mind that talking to a toddler is most effective when it is done at, or slightly beyond, his level of understanding...so be sure that you don't underestimate what he may know.


           Let's Pretend!       

       This is a wonderful activity for you and your toddler this month.  It includes reading, exercising, stretching, working on vocabulary, and the best part of all it is guaranteed to make everyone involved laugh.  There is no preparation, no mess to clean up, and essentially no materials...what could be better?

       To start, look at a picture book of animals with your toddler.  I found Eric Carle's book From Head To Toe to be the perfect addition to this activity, and it can easily be found in your local library if you don't have it at home.  As you look at each animal on the page together, figure out ways to make your bodies look, act and sound like the animal, get down on all fours, hop around the room, and just get silly.

       If you don't have an animal book to follow, you can easily make up your own animals and moves.  For example, Butterfly (sit with the bottoms of your feet together, move knees up and down and say "fly"), Bird (stand up and reach your hands above your head and then place them back down at your sides and repeat, saying "tweet"), Frog (I'll let you figure this one out yourself!).

       Once you've gone through as many animals as you can think of, go ahead and start imitating different transportation vehicles, like cars, planes, motorcycles, trains and rocket ships.  The key here is to keep on going and going until everyone runs out of gas (and takes a nice, long, well-deserved nap).


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           Prior to beginning our activity, I decided to read From Head To Toe to my three boys in hopes that it would assist with their ability to focus...once again, wishful thinking.  Getting my 4-year-old, and my 21-month-old twins to focus on a book is definitely not their strongest suit lately, however, upon completing the story, we were all able to sit together in a circle and begin to verbally mimic the animals that we just read about.

       After accepting the fact that Devin remains convinced that all animals say "Moo," we stood up for the next phase of our activity.  Knowing that my 21-month-old twin boys, Andrew and Devin, adore their older brother Ryan, and love to copy him (despite his tendency to "over-love" and "squeeze" them a bit too much) I decided to let him try his hand at running the show and trying to get his brothers to follow his lead.  I must say that I was quite impressed with how my boys interacted and actually listened to one another, and watching the three of them try and contort into various positions was very entertaining to say the very least.

       Ryan's first animal impression, a frog, was an immediate success, and I was instantly surrounded by the most uncoordinated group of bouncing and ribbiting toddlers that I have ever encountered.  His second attempt, a dog, was met with similar excitement and I was bombarded by three pouncing, barking puppies for five minutes.  This game went on and on, as we traveled around the world in search of new undiscovered animals.  That was until my eldest son ran out of ideas, and stood there scratching his head.

       Leave it to Andrew to step up to the plate, as he placed himself directly in front of his older brother, bent over until his little head touched the ground, stuck his little heiny in the air and said proudly "upside-down Andoo!"  There you had it, our last and final animal of the day.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           What are the pros and cons of having a bi-lingual toddler?       

       At this young age your toddler's mind is like a sponge, able to absorb everything and anything that she is surrounded by.  As for language acquisition, this automatic absorption is also true, and your toddler will learn to speak and understand the languages that are spoken to her on a daily basis.  Furthermore, if your child is fortunate enough to be surrounded by a family that speaks two languages, she will learn both.

       If you do choose to give your child the gift of learning two languages, keep in mind that children do need to hear language that is grammatically correct in order to make sense of it, so pick your child's teachers wisely.  Not everything has to be perfect in order for your toddler to benefit, but the rules must be followed consistently.

       Many language experts recommend introducing a second language around the second year, as introducing it earlier may actually slow down the development of both languages.  Studies do indicate that learning two languages simultaneously may initially cause your toddler's early language development to be slightly slower, however there is no question that she will quickly be able to catch up overtime.  Specifically, research shows that children may produce fewer words in each language to begin with, but this is because her mind is working a little harder than it would be if she was only learning one language.  Furthermore, despite any initial delays, if taught two languages as a toddler, your child may actually have an advantage regarding learning grammar in the future, when compared with children who have not been exposed.  If the secondary language is not kept up, your toddler may forget parts of it over time, however her initial exposure will remain an intellectually enriching experience, and well worth the effort.


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