As a teacher, I love to try to incorporate learning skills into as many daily activities with the kids as I can. For toddlers, play is the main focus for learning, so including skill builders into normal play is ideal.
To engage toddlers in developing language skills, one easy way to add vocabulary is to narrate play. For example, “I see you’re playing with the red car. Wow! It’s going so fast. Now you’re driving the large car. It’s gigantic!” Including different adjectives can be a great way to introduce new words. Occasionally I’ll ask questions, but I find that sometimes Little A, who’s 3, gets frustrated by too many questions.
Another favorite language building activity for us is reading! We read together daily. In the chaos of our day, sometimes I can forget or not make it a priority. One tool for me is the App “1000 Books Before Kindergarten.” The App can be a little clunky, but it allows me to keep track of the number of books each child has read. I like this one in particular because you can mark a book as read multiple times, which is important since we read books over and over. I’m also able to print out their reading list and take it to our local library for the kids to get prizes. Little A has already hit her goal of 1000 and Little S is halfway there.
Reading time can be me reading to the kids or Little A reading to us. Sometimes she can recite the book from memory and other times she will use the pictures to retell key parts of the story. Both are great! Little S will also join in by pointing to certain pictures and labeling them, either with the correct word or with gibberish and we always praise his attempt. I also like to ask Little A to make inferences and predictions based on the story. This can be a little difficult, but the key is practice, not perfection.
One way to make reading interesting for toddlers is to use puppets or stuffed animals during reading. Sometimes I use the puppets to act out the story, but most of the time each of us has a puppet and we act it out together. It can get pretty silly, but it’s a great way to engage in speaking.
Lastly, the kids love to listen to other people tell stories. We attend Library Story time and listen to Audio Books. An App we enjoy is called “Pinna.” There is a subscription fee, but they have a wide variety of books that be listened to as many times as you’d like. You can also use Spotify or search Podcasts, but there aren’t as many options.
I hope some of these ideas help to encourage language in your home! I’d love to hear what language activities you do at home that your toddler loves.