Toddler language development - sample sentences
December 16, 2017 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I have limited experience but my toddler seems to have advanced language skills. Sample sentences ahead. Not going to do anything different about it but just curious.

Toddler peeps is 2 years and 4 months. Saying things like:

"I want mama to wear her big red shirt."
"[Cat's name] is playing because he push the popsicle stick onto the ground with his paw."
"[Toddler peeps] has a hat because he is a fireman."
"I want to be a teacher."
"The red car is similar to the blue car."
"Mama take the toy and it makes [Toddler Peeps] sad."
"We take care of our friends."
"Mama do Mickey Mouse impersonation." (Then we take turns trying a mickey voice.)

He has very clear pronunciation. Also into the poop jokes, current favorite is "It's not shampoo! It's real poo!" He also likes jokes where we switch out the expected word with another one (hickory dickory dock. The mouse ran up the... tractor!)

Earlier on in life he said things like "the moon is in the sky" (1.5 years) and he really surprised me at 13 months when I said to him "don't touch the mud it's icky" and he said "is good!" with intonation clearly intended as a rebuttal. This all strikes me as different from his peers but what do I know. He's not reading or anything but will point to words and ask me to tell him what it means.

Per one of my previous questions, we pulled him from montessori since it was not a good fit and he's now in a regular ol' play based day care and much happier. The main thing we do is go to the library every 3-4 weeks and I try to pick books that build on language skills that he seems to be working on lately. And when I notice him use a new word or concept I immediately try to reinforce it by repeating, using it in slightly different sentences, expanding upon it etc.

Anyways, those of you with more experience with toddlers, is this advanced or am I just a proud parent :P
posted by St. Peepsburg to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
You should be proud -- your kiddo sounds verbal and great, and is getting a lot of happy reinforcement from you. BUT I just want to make a suggestion. Focusing too much on how special/advanced it is when they say things, instead of just responding to the content, is going to cause problems down the road. This is a not uncommon hazard for first children or only children. Basically, it eventually creates anxiety in the kid that everything they do has to be amazing and genius. And in about 12 months all this kids' friends will be talking totally fluently. It's not the case that the kids who develop language early then are persistently ahead of everything. It's just like some kids walk at 9 months, others at 14 months. Then they're all walking. It's the same with talking, even though yours might always be more verbal. (or might not.) SO tldr: it's advanced but not crazy-advanced (i.e. plenty of other toddlers do also talk this well, though not all of them), yes be proud of your kid! But don't look for ways that kid is beyond the curve. Does not help them.
posted by velveeta underground at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2017 [32 favorites]

Here's my wife's (M.S. in Speech Language Pathology) response: "Very good language skills, especially for a boy. It also sounds like he is very social which is great. Recommend a lot of reading and limiting his screen time."
posted by davcoo at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Parent of formerly very verbal toddler (who is now a teen). When my kiddo was around 2, he ran headlong into a doorframe and shouted through tears: "I have sustained an injury!!!"

We still love to tell this story. Your toddler does sound advanced! You should definitely be proud!

I will say that parenting a verbal kindergartner was really hard, though, because it took us a while to realize that our kiddo's communication skills didn't really line up with his comprehension skills - so he could talk like he understood what we were saying, and we would talk to him thinking that he understood what we were saying, but he wasn't really understanding. In our case, I wish we had learned earlier how to keep things like rules or instructions stripped way down. "No. Don't do that. Stop." Explaining or reasoning as if we were having a conversation with another adult led to all kinds of grief and misery.

But I agree with velveeta underground. There are so many ways for all kids to be special; but also all kids will have challenges. My articulate toddler is an articulate teen, placed in certain kinds of courses at school and given certain kinds of opportunities, accordingly. But he's also a regular person, you know? And, really, his special skill isn't that special. The overwhelming evidence for this kind of thing shows that it's all just demographics. I am mindful of his/our privilege, and I try to help him be that way, too.

So my kid, like all kids, has things he's good at and things he's not so good at -- strengths he should cultivate and shortcomings he will have to address or workaround. He succeeds and he fails, like everyone but also not like everyone. I hope he can see when he should take responsibility for either one and when he should see himself as part of a bigger picture.

And truthfully, sometimes this strength of his is also his achilles heel. He can take it for granted. He has the luxury of not really having to work at it. I have seen him use his verbal acumen in ways that I think are ethically dodgy. It can isolate him from others who don't have or appreciate his verbosity. It can infuriate his mother who would really please god just like him to take a shower rather than launch an entire argument about why he shouldn't have to take a shower.

So, yeah, be proud. But as my good friend once said to me in a conversation about parenting: "We have to help them learn how to use their talents for good instead of evil, and a big part of that is also helping them learn how to spot and work on their weaknesses."
posted by pinkacademic at 9:10 AM on December 16, 2017 [24 favorites]

I think it's what's behind the language that is advanced.
Cognitive skills: concepts such as "because", "similar to" show advanced-for-his-age thinking.
Emotional/social skills: understanding one's own sadness and its causes, and knowing what "taking care" of someone who is perceived as "friends" means. It is by no means typical that both advanced thinking and advanced social skills go together.

The sham-poo and clock/tractor type of humor seems a little more like, um, how they should be. Be just as glad for that bit...
posted by Namlit at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

My older kiddo was early with her language skills, similar to yours. My second kiddo was more on a normal track. Ten and six years in, neither one is notably gifted in an academic way, but they both have their strengths and talents. Enjoy your son's advanced skills, and continue writing down the cute sayings. It's so fun to share those with the kid later!
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:20 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Teacher here; totally agree with velveeta underground and also want to say that kids develop at wildly different rates. So while what he's doing right now is cool and advanced, he may not always be advanced in this area. Kids acquire skills when their brains are ready and early development does not always correlate to an adult strength. Conversely, a developmental lag does not always equate to a lifetime of being less developed in any area.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:30 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Mine was like this at 2, could read at 2.5 (without instruction - just figured it out), and at 8 still has an advanced vocabulary and reading level, which supports his interests in storytelling, writing, and acting. Since age 6 or so, it became much less striking because the other kids are now reading. Nevertheless, feeding their interests is a good thing for any child.
posted by xo at 10:01 AM on December 16, 2017

I'm just impressed that a little kid knows what "sham" means.

Recommendations: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt, and the German joke by Henning Wehn.
posted by flabdablet at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

No kids but an uncle to 4 boys and your son definitely sounds like one of my nephews who is extremely verbal. For him, he went rapidly from simple vocabulary to full, complete and complex compound sentences. All the others took much longer circuitous paths towards language.
posted by mmascolino at 10:12 AM on December 16, 2017

My brother (younger than me by 11 years and now in his 30s) said one day when he was in his twos "I wonder what [patheral] is concocting for dinner tonight?" It's something that's stuck with me for all these years because it was so precocious. And he was always saying things like that. He's a smart guy, and I love my brother, but a rich vocabulary is only one ingredient in the recipe that makes a person whole. I have one too, and I was also reading before Kindergarten (I just picked it up as someone else mentioned above). And it will only get a person so far.

My advice? I dunno, be proud of his precociousness, but treat is as a part of the whole and not a separate something to be nurtured.
posted by patheral at 10:16 AM on December 16, 2017

My older kid was like this. Basically she started speaking in full sentences and used a very adult vocabulary; hardly any baby-speak. She‘s a very normal/average 1st grader now, which is good! (I was ‚ahead of the curve‘ in school and it was a horrible experience. Average is good.)

My younger kid is at 26 months now and barely able to form sentences, and uses her own weird toddler-speak that only I can understand (‚meee - NO!‘ means ‚No milk!). She also still doesn’t know her colors (!?). But - she could sing along to a melody at 9 months and is very vocally expressive, if that makes sense. Just not ‚verbal‘.

Both are normal variants of development at that age and nothing out of the ordinary, IMHO.
posted by The Toad at 12:26 PM on December 16, 2017

I am an aunt to four very smart and verbal kids (taught themselves to read at three years old and such) who I see several times a week (and so am close witness of their day-to-day development) and I'm impressed by your examples. Witnessing the development of a kiddos intelligence is an amazing experience. I'd say yeah, these are advanced verbal skills and you have my permission to be thrilled. Your kid is probably always going to be pretty verbal and that may very well be his own particular strength. Also, kiddos are so cute when they utter those words of wisdom in that solemn toddler voice :)
posted by M. at 12:52 AM on December 17, 2017

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