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Any tips for teaching my 18-month-old new words?
Q: My 18-month-old son, Tyler, is starting to develop his language skills. Is there any way I can help him to learn new words and express his feelings? I would also like to learn about how to help him clarify what is being said.
Nikki Lovell
A: Yes, there is much you can do. Talk to him frequently. Be especially attentive to try to respond to anything he says to you. And read to him every day. In a few months he will be old enough to make routine trips to the library. Let him choose some of the books, and you choose some. As you are concerned about helping Tyler express his feelings, choose some books that show children and adults expressing different emotions—sadness, happiness, fear, anger, etc. Then, when you read these books, talk to him about these feelings. Get him to show how his face looks when he is mad, afraid, etc. Then you make some facial expressions and add body movements and have him tell you what you are feeling. He will enjoy this little game. Later, if he goes all out and has a tantrum, you can calmly request, “Tyler, show me you are mad with just your face. I don’t need all that extra fuss.”

Finally, don’t worry about pronunciation at this stage. Chances are this will take care of itself in time. The important thing is for him to experience joy in the process of talking and listening.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education