When Words Fail: Ways to Understand -- and be Understood by -- Toddlers

language for children, toddler activities
The WhyCry analyser: technology that's wasted on babies. What we really need is a two-way toddler interpreter. Or these strategies.

Remember that baby cries interpreter device that came out a few years ago? Supposedly, it would translate your baby’s cries into words that you, Mom and Dad, could understand. For many reasons I thought those were a waste. Of money, yes. But also, how hard can it be to figure out what the baby is trying to express? There aren’t that many options!

I thought a better use of ingenuity (or even snake-oil salesmanship) would have been a two-way toddler translator. Speak into it and your toddler gets that you’re saying “it’s too cold to wear flip flops today”; let the toddler let loose a few garbled words and maybe a screech and the machine reports to you: “but my shoes are too small and hurt my feet!”

In other words, even though toddlers already understand so much language, there are limits. And that can be frustrating to parent and kid.

Eliana Osborn has 8 great ways to get through to toddlers when words fail us (and them). There’s sign language, sure, but also ideas about using pictures, pretending and singing.

I had a couple of ways that I used to try to get through to my toddlers, especially about emotions and also about time. My methods always used words, so I guess I cheated, but they were fun and often worked to convey ideas.

My first one, was when reading to my kids, if there was a particular emotion featured, I would say “show me your happy face,” and “show me your sad face.” We’d do angry face, tired face, bored face, etc. My girls liked this one but, so far, Earl refuses to do it. (I think he thinks he’s being asked to perform and he’s not the least bit willing to go the trained monkey route. Sigh.)

Before I could convey the idea that, yes, we’ll get to whatever it is that they wanted to do but first I have to do … You know, that thing? The I-don’t-believe-you-will-do-this-so-I’m-going-to-keep-asking thing? I started saying “one, eat lunch, two, take a nap, three, go to the park!” or “one, take a bath, two, put on pajamas, three, read that book!”

It’s not like they got it right away, but somehow they managed to get that all those things on the list would be done and the big pay-off one was coming last. Anyway, it sorta worked.

What are some of your tricks of the toddler trade?

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Article Posted 5 years Ago
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