Teaching My Toddler to Use Her Voice

A big frustration between parents and toddlers is a lack of communication. Tantrums are thrown and both parties get stressed out because we’re not understanding each other. Toddlers have to talk eventually, right?

My daughter has been slow with words, but took well to a few signs, which have been indeterminately helpful.

Before she had the signs, Alice was unable to tell us why she was cranky. Now she can tell us very easily that she wants food or a drink, and doesn’t have to get cranky about it! She can also tell us when she wants more, or if she’s all done with her meal. (Those are three signs I cannot recommend more. If you do any baby sign language at all, teach “food,” “more,” and “all done.”) I recently also taught her signs for milk and water so that she can tell us what she wants to drink.

"More Cheerios, please!"

“More Cheerios, please!”

Being able to communicate is a wonderful thing for us, making all our lives easier, but even more than that, I love the look on her face when she is able to tell me something and I understand her. She is so proud of herself, and I am proud of her.

Even though she wasn’t speaking words, we were communicating. She developed her own “signs” or ways to tell us what she wants. She pats her diaper when it’s dirty. She hands me the remote or points at the TV if she wants to watch one of her shows. She hands me a book and climbs into my lap when she wants to read stories. She pats the door if she wants to play outside.

She is finding more independence through our communication. She is able to follow directions, which has opened up new ways for us to play together; I can ask her to get her ball, and she will get it and bring it to me. She can throw or kick it too, and will have fun following my directions playing, sort of like “Simon Says.” Being able to follow directions means she gets to “help” me too, and she loves to be a helper! Helping us put away her toys and books has become a fun game, and less work for mommy and daddy!

Alice also has more understanding of routines and daily tasks. She likes to help pick out what to wear in the morning. Sometimes I let her pull something off the rack in the closet, sometimes I give her a choice of two or three shirts to choose between, then two choices of bottoms to go with her chosen shirt. I can tell she enjoys having a little more control and making these choices.

I had been thinking about teaching her more signs, since she still hadn’t said her first real words other than “mama” and “dada.” And then it happened.


“Doggie doggie doggie doggie doggie!”

She was chasing our dog around in the kitchen, saying it over and over. I was so excited and proud, I almost cried.

And she is so proud of herself, too. When she says “doggie” and I confirm, “Yes, doggie!” her eyes shine. She has said a word, and mommy knows what she is saying. Finally.

Now she seems to be adding a few words per week, and we’re having so much fun with it. We teach her words and animal sounds, and she happily copies, or tries to. Some words are hard!! I can tell that she is loving this new challenge. She has run out of new things to climb in our house – time to conquer something new and take on the world!

“All done!”

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