Teach Your Toddler to Listen and How To Talk To Others

It is part of a toddler's  development to learn to listen and follow simple directions. We want them to be able to have eye contact, pay attention, do what we ask them to do, answer questions and learn how to talk to others. Here are some tips:

  • Children learn a lot by listening and watching others around them. Talk to your child in your normal tone of voice. Baby voice or cute little made up words will not teach them to speak the correct way. Talk politely, children are listening and will model what they hear.
  • Get down to their eye level. This gets their attention, helps them focus on what you are saying, and establishes eye contact. If your child looks away or is distracted, stop saying what you were saying, tell them to look at your eyes, and then continue talking. For a younger toddler you can say "find my eyes please", then tell them thank you and continue talking to them.
  • Give your child a chance to speak, answer,or ask questions. Telling your child: "clean up the toys", walking away and expecting them to do it, may not work. Toddlers love to ask "why?". A short explanation like "we are getting ready to have dinner so I need you to clean up your toys first", answers his question and let's him know that you did not ignore him.
  • Give your child choices. Toddlers love to say NO and to ignore us when we are calling them or asking them to do something. It may be as simple as "do you want to clean up the blocks first or the cars?". It helps them feel powerful that they get to make the decision of what to clean first and at the same time
    Child playing with blocks
    they are doing exactly what you asked them to do.
  • Do not tell your child what you want them to do in question form if there is no choice. Saying "why don't you get dressed for school now?" is not a good question if you really need your child to get dressed for school because you are giving them the chance to say no. Tell them what you want them to do. If there is a choice, then give them just two choices. You can say "it's time to get dressed for school. Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?"
  • Give them a warning. You can tell your child something like "five more minutes and then we have to sit for dinner". This helps the child get ready for that transition. Help avoid a sudden change that may upset him because it caught him off guard as he might have been concentrating on something and having fun.This warning gives them a sense of security as they now know what is coming next.
  • Model the correct way of speaking as well as being respectful. Use words with your child like please, thank you, and excuse me. Use a nice and friendly tone of voice. If they "forget" to say something respectful or nicely,  remind them and then ask them to say it again in a nice way. If they forget important words like please or thank you,  remind them so they can say it again the correct way. 
Toddlers are super smart and they are able to learn to listen, follow directions, and how to talk to others at this early age. In fact the toddler years are the crucial period when they learn the foundation of social skills that will enhance their childhood, adolescence, and adult years.