Children learn through fun, and music is one of the easiest and fun way to enhance their communication skills through dancing and singing together.
I was talking to a friend of mine about her 15 month old grandchild, about his behavior, character, attitude etc… and all the fun stuff toddlers do. One particular aspect of the development triggered my question – how do they communicate?
I was at the same time relating that to my 15 month old nephew who visited us recently, and both toddlers share the same way of communication, i.e. they just point, make sounds but do not verbalise any words.
That really intrigued me, and I started to recall when my children were around that same age… How did they communicate?
Children at around this age would understand 'dog', 'cat', 'book', 'car', 'eat', 'sit' while pointing to objects and asking you to name it. Or if they dirty their nappy, they may to point to their nappy and use their voice or face to tell you about the discomfort. They may not pronounce it properly yet, but they can use hand signs or sounds to express their needs.
They are able to understand some basic requests such as 'give me a hug', 'sit down', 'show me the hat'…
As for verbalising and using words, in most cases, they are able to babble a few words or sounds, but mostly they are able to put words together, such as 'no', 'yes', 'car', 'cat', 'mine', 'go', or 'car go', 'I can' etc. I remember my son's favourite word was "self", and used "self" to exert his independence.
It is also common for the child to pronounce words differently. I remember asking my mum why we call an elderly aunty "em-pah", which by right should be "em-poh". This is the Hokkien dialect where "em-poh" means grand aunty. She said for the life of me (when I was very young), I just could not pronounce "poh" and always revert to "pahhhh". So that lovely grand aunty ended up being called "em-pah" by all my cousins and siblings.
My message today is that children learn through fun, and they learn by mimicking or imitating the actions of the people around them, through daily interactions such as communication and playing with them. They learn how to pronounce words, how to read your tone and the sound of your words, combined with your body language.
Your child will know how to point to things at this age, and you will understand what they mean; however, encourage them to verbalise by allowing them to "name" the object by their own voice and their own way of communicating.
My favourite way to introduce language and encourage communication and language development is through music.
- When my children were small, we bought a battery operated karaoke set for them to use when I needed the TV to "babysit" them while I did some work. I would switch on the VHS (it was the video cassette during my time) together with the karaoke set and my two would be busy dancing and singing along.
- Sing and dance to the music such as the Wiggles, Barney the Purple Dianosour, singing and dancing with them and encouraging them to join in.For example singalong the song "head shoulder knees and toes, knees and toes…", and encourage them to point to each body part while singing together, and make it fun and engaging.
- Play nursery rhymes while putting them to bed.
- Play music in the car, whether going to the shops or on road trips; encourage them to sing and clap along with you.
By encouraging them to sing and have fun, it indirectly encourages them to verbalise, and using their voice to communicate and express themselves. This is when they start to string words together.
Finally, every child is unique in his and her own way and they develop at different rates. So let it be fun and develope at their own pace.