Ask Your Non-Verbal Toddler Some Questions, Her Answers May Surprise You

Posted on February 23, 2012

After a little over a year of singing, reading, and talking to my son with the appearance that he enjoyed the sounds but didn’t comprehend much of the content of our jabber, it was easy get into the habit of assuming the words we were saying didn’t hold much meaning for him.

Then one day when I went to pick him up at Grandma’s house, she said, “Show Mommy your tummy.”  He patted both hands on his stomach, his smile beaming from ear to ear.  Then she said, “Show Mommy your buttons,” and (with a little more effort), he pointed to the buttons on his shirt.  A week or so later, I thought, “I wonder if he knows more of his body parts?  Maybe I should ask him?”  I asked, “Where are your eyes?” and he looked back at me with a grin and squinted eyes.  “Where is your nose?”  He scrunched his little nose and puffed air out.  “Where are your ears?”  He tilted his head and touched his ear to his shoulder.  “Where are your toes?”  He lifted his foot and wiggled his toes.

Yesterday Grandma asked him to point out the fish in the book they were reading and he nailed it.  I had no idea he knew what a fish was.  I had gotten caught up in the frustration of not being able to ask my son a question and get a simple verbal answer.  I just figured I’d have to wait for him to start talking or have more success using the baby signs I’ve been teaching him.  It was exciting to see that he does have a “vocabulary,” he just needs to figure out how to get the words to come out of his mouth.

When you chatter day in and day out to your baby and her response is often a jumble of baby babble, it’s easy to forget that understanding language comes much earlier than speaking it.  To learn more about some of the words your baby knows, but can’t yet say, try out some non-verbal communication: baby sign-language, asking baby to do simple tasks (can you get the ball?), asking baby to point to specific things.  Her answers might surprise you!

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