How to Help Your Toddler to Say Complete Sentences

After your toddler accumulates their own storage of individual words, the next developmental step is for them to combine them into sentences. At first toddlers use two words to create short sentences, such as “Want juice!” for “I want some juice” and “What dat?” for “What is that?”

When your toddler is able to signal her desire for a drink by saying “water,” you can encourage her to take the next step to further to sentences by saying, “Can you say ‘Water, please’?” Or you can respond with a full sentence (“You want some water.”) or with a more grammatically correct question (“Do you want some water?”) to help move her toward what is known as the toddler version of a complete sentence, “Want water.” You give her the cup even if the only reply is a nod, which means, after all, that she has heard and understood the question.

Similarly, if a toddler sees a cat and starts a conversation by pointing to it and saying, “Cat,” a you or your toddler’s caregiver can engage the baby in conversation by expanding on the subject he brought up. To do this, the adult might say, “Yes. It’s a cat,” or “Yes, it’s a big, white cat. And look at its long tail!” By giving them a verbal response as opposed to simply nodding when toddlers speak, adults encourage them to say more.

After all, if toddlers don’t receive a response when they initiate a conversation, there is no reason for them to talk! By responding with longer, more complex, sentences, adults can help build toddlers’ vocabularies.


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