It is typical for parents to anxiously await the arrival of their child’s first words. Unfortunately, it is also typical for parents to lament the fact that there little one seems content to use just one or two of those words at a time. While some children do start speaking in complete sentences, that is relatively rare. What is far more common is for them to be extremely economical in their early speech. They simply do not see the need for all that excess verbiage that we toss into our communications.
So an 18-month-old toddles into the kitchen, holds up a cup and says, “Juice!” What is he saying? “Pardon me, but I seem to be running low on this liquid refreshment. Regrettably, I am not yet of a size and stature whereby I can open that large white box that keeps stuff cool or accurately pour from the bottles contained therein. Since you are bigger and stronger than I am, I would appreciate it if you opened it and refilled my cup so I can fully quench my thirst.” All of that in “Juice!” Similarly, a two-year-old will observe you engaged in some activity and ask, “What doing?” instead of “What are you doing?” or see you snacking and ask, “What eating?” instead of “What are you eating?” It’s as if she believes that words cost a dollar each and she is determined to save money.
Rest assured, this is perfectly normal and will be temporary. As long as you casually respond with complete sentences such as “You would like more juice?” or “What am I doing?” and thus model appropriate language, the child will eventually catch on and start employing proper and complete speech.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.