When you find your toddler talking to himself, rest assured he's not losing his little mind. According to the publication Growing Child (Dunn and Hargitt), "self-communication is [a] toddler's way of enhancing his language and speech development." Your child's self talk takes four forms:
Self-direction: When alone, toddlers often talk out loud about anything they're doing. For instance, if your son is in the sandbox, you may observe him "explaining" as he pours, piles, and dumps.
Self-control: Toddlers are attentive. You can hear a toddler caution himself as he approaches something or somewhere that has recently been pointed out as off-limits. He may use words like "no, no" when he sees the fireplace, or "be gentle" when he nears the dog.
Daydreaming: When your toddler starts to drift into his own little world of chatter, he's often using that time to organize his experiences. When a child daydreams, he may chatter certain phrases?perhaps something he heard you say earlier that day. Daydreaming and chatter often occur before naptime when your child is winding down and processing his thoughts. He might lie down with his blanket or sit in a quiet place and talk or sing. Although he looks so cute and huggable, be sure not to interrupt?he needs this time to communicate his thoughts out loud, which strengthens his verbal ability.
Dramatic play: If you want to see what kind of impressions you're leaving on your toddler, just watch her during pretend play. Toddlers tend to imitate the roles of people they associate with.
At this age, gender specific imitation isn't prevalent or important?your daughter imitates Dad shaving or your son plays "mommy" to his dolls. It's best not to discourage either scenario as this type of self-communication is an important part of your child's growing ability to identify members of his family and figure out where he fits in.
A Good Investment
As you know, research studies consistently find that the first three years of life are critical to the emotional and intellectual development of a child. During these early years, 75 percent of brain growth is completed. But in many cases, the effects of this emotional and intellectual development will not be seen until your child reaches the third or fourth grade. What you do now will greatly affect what and how your child learns in the future.
? A child who is held and nurtured in a time of stress is less likely to respond with violence later.
? A child who is read to has a much better chance of becoming a reader.
? A child whose curiosity is encouraged has a better chance to become a lifetime learner.
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Christian Parenting Today.