As adults it’s easy to forget how much is going on with toddlers in terms of emotions, thoughts, learning processes and development. These very small people are often dealing with huge emotions that they may struggle to understand.
Toddlers really do depend and thrive on the compassion and stability of the adults around them. It’s so important that you establish effective and beneficial ways to communicate with them as this can have huge advantages for everyone involved.
Here are some of our top tips for talking to toddlers:
1. Be at their level
To be physically at the same level as a toddler you may need to bend down, sit on the floor or squat next to them. Do whatever you can to be in their direct line of both vision and hearing – it will make a huge difference to your communication with them.
It can be incredibly overwhelming to be a toddler and to constantly be looking up at ‘big people’ who may be noisy or unreachable. Getting to their level is the first step in starting healthy communication.
2. Use closeness and contact
Toddlers are very easily distracted, and there’s often no point in trying to talk to them from across a room. Instead, try to get close to them so that they can clearly hear you, they’re more focussed on you, and you can maintain eye contact.
If you have the full trust of the toddler you’ll also want to gently touch their arm or shoulder to help with getting or maintaining their attention. It’s useful for you to encourage them to reciprocate this if they need to speak to you.
3. Keep calm
We all know that toddlers can really test your patience. Try and do whatever you can to ensure that your communication as well as your body language remains as calm as possible. This will help a toddler to instantly feel secure and they are far more likely to cooperate and listen to you if you speak in a calm and assertive manner.
4. Choose your words
Toddlers can often seem older than they really are. You need to remember just how young they are when you pick which words to use when trying to convey your message.
Using short and direct statements will help your toddler to gain a sense of clarity from your communication, rather than longer narratives or lengthy pieces of information. The key is to keep communication as simple as possible.
Choosing the right words is also useful when it comes to how you frame questions and there are all sorts of ways that you can achieve a ‘yes’ response from your toddler far more easily than you might think!
5. Act as a role model
Parents, guardians and caregivers are the best role models for children in general – and this is especially true for toddlers who are learning at a rapid rate about the world and the people around them. Your child will be watching how you communicate in day to day life without you even realising it.
By ensuring that we always model good eye contact, respond to requests clearly and appropriately, and speak in a respectful calm tone we can begin to ensure that children will replicate this and become clear and happy communicators with us, and for the rest of their lives.