Birth & Parenting Series (23): Toddler Talk from a Mom of a Big Talkin’ Toddler
A girlfriend from the natural birthing & parenting community around here shares her incredibly interesting perspective on how her little one is such a communicator. Love this revival of our Birth & Parenting Series.
This is our 22nd guest post in the Birth & Parenting Series! The other 22 guest writers’ stories may be found here. Contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) anytime if you’d like to share your story of your child’s arrival, or a parenting perspective.
Maybe it’s because he’s part Italian, probably because we talk a lot? Sam, our 15 month old boy is definitely a communicator.
A typical day with Sam does not leave room for much guessing of what he needs. He will be clapping his hands, meaning… I want: … point (this); hands to mouth (water/food); hands up (pick me up); tap tap (help with this); hands together (more): tap tap between legs (sit/play with me) and so on. I could probably teach him a new sign everyday, but we are working on words now and mama doesn’t get enough sleep yet to be that inspired. Our families are both amazed and terrified as we have a tiny dominator ordering all of us around. Ofcourse he doesn’t always get his way, but who can ignore a simple request from a cute little baby boy, when it’s asked so nicely?
Apart from the ‘useful’ hand gestures Sam has figured out how to communicate with strangers, woman mostly (did I mention he’s part Italian). There is the usual smiling to get your attention, continued by showing you where all the lights are – signing and pointing. He also recently started sharing with the bigger kids, walking up to them and offering toys. It might be a survival trick to make sure they don’t take the toys he wants, but I like to think it’s his way of starting a conversation. Because Sam will tell you stories! They are super interesting, even without understanding ‘babble.’ Luckily some understandable words, like ball . . . . Many things are balls these days.
So, how did we get here?
I think it started with babywearing. Ever since he was born we have been keeping Sam close, going on walks, traveling with him in the ergo babycarrier. It’s quick and easy, we didn’t have a stroller until recently and if he weren’t 34pounds heavy I’d still carry him everywhere. Babywearing has many positives and one of the biggest things I find is that the baby can study you while you talk. They are at face level with you, can see how you interact and react with/to others. It’s the first step to becoming a communicator.
Second is giving them tools to communicate. We started with a few baby signs when Sam was tiny and around 11 months is when he (and us) started to pick up on it. At that point we really needed to as he would get frustrated when we didn’t understand. Words don’t come easy, but chubby hands can pick up signing quickly. It’s not perfect and you have to simplify some signs as the fine motor skills are not there yet, but it works. With just a few signs Sam was able to show us what he wanted and papa and mama could sigh in relief as peace and happiness returned to our home.
Once Sam started using his signs, it became important to teach him how to communicate. I have to give credit to Jamie from Behave Your Best (interview with her here) as she showed us some great ways to teach Sam how and when to use his signs. So much frustration we were able to avoid by giving him these tools to use. It’s awesome! All toddlers try to communicate, it’s up to us to show them which tools work and which ones don’t. Honestly though, it’s easier said than done. For example, Sam has learned that mama and papa will always come when he says ‘auw’, so at this point we have no idea when he’s really hurting or not. I’d rather he claps his hands when he wants my attention, which he does most of the time, sometimes needing a gentle reminder. It’s a work in progress as it will be for the rest of our lives.
What I find amazing is that Sam has realized that he can make up his own signs (and words). It’s a guessing game at times, but it’s so much fun to interact with this little person. What started as a baby smiling at us while we chatted and walked along the river. Has turned into a toddler who is a part of the conversation, signing water and fish and lights as we walk together discussing all that matters in the world. I can’t wait for when the actual talking begins!