MOMS TALK: Translating Your Toddler's Secret Language

Every toddler has his or her own system for communicating. How can we go about decoding their language?

Parenthood requires endless patience.

Ignore those urges to run away to a tropical location to sip on a cold one. Sit down, take a deep breath and communicate.

Communication is key to any relationship. Professional, romantic and especially in the parent-child dynamic. After all, if you can't speak openly, ask and answer questions and really pick each other's brains, you may never really "get" what's going on in there. You won't know what steps you can take to help guide your child to a pleasant life experience.

One problem?

As a toddler, in particular, your young one hasn't developed the vocabulary to tell you exactly what it is that he or she wants, needs and expects. There's some semblance of words, grunts, cries, laughs and actions, but how do you go about translating it?

One tactful solution is sign language. For toddlers who haven't begun to use verbal cues beyond one word, association with a sign can be useful, not only in their development of a concept but to help them communicate for years to come with those who use it. While our son has never really fully picked it up, I have girlfriends with children in the same age bracket who were easily able to convey a desire for more juice with the "more" sign.

Another great solution? Learning body language and translating a toddler's language itself. As most parents know, you can figure your kiddo out light years before even the closest friends and family. You see that glimmer in your wee ones eyes as they are eyeballing the last cookie. The special cry when they hurt or are just plain mad. That grunt when they have to go potty.

It's a process, but the best you can do is be aware of your toddlers  non-vocal communication and help others in his or her life be mindful as well.

Also talking to your child helps them to develop their verbal skills. Conversate, narrate daily activities, ask them questions about their surroundings and encourage them to respond. This isn't simply talking "at" them. You want to wait for a response and maybe aid them in combining words and ideas.

Last but not least — READ to them. In developing a daily reading ritual, your little one will begin to associate words and pictures to the storyline they are following. Reading stories with relatable characters can help them to identify with the happenings and link the meanings of words with their own lives.

So parents — do you have any toddlerese translation secrets? Tell Patch about them in the comments!

Casandra Kamp September 22, 2011 at 06:09 AM
My son now 2 is a big talker but he still occasionally uses the sign language he learned as an infant when he is tired/cranky. It can work wonders for curbing tantrums! Our favorites were please, thank you, milk, & more! As far as translating toddlerese, a large percent of the time what they are saying/babbling is situational, so when trying to decode, think about what is around you and your toddler for clues.
Jackie Fender September 22, 2011 at 07:56 PM
YES! taking a look around almost like a game. Keeps us parents sharp. As for sign language I couldn't agree more! Besides it's such an invaluable skill for a lifetime.


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