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Communication & Language in Infants and Toddlers—Building Blocks for the Brain

By: Beth Hess, J.D., M.A., Director of the Center for Early Learning at Groundwork Ohio

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As a parent, I spend a lot of time interpreting the communications of my toddler and preschooler. When my kids were infants, it fascinated me that I could understand what they were saying while my own mother looked on in bewilderment. Just the other night, my toddler asked, “Can we read in a porch?” In a porch? We don’t have a porch. Hmm. He begins to cover himself in a blanket while sitting up. Oh—he wants to read in a fort. I recast back to him, “Yes, we can read in the fort. Tell me what you’d like to read in again.” This allowed my son to hear the correct word and rehearse using it.

Children washed in words become rich in language and on track for healthy development.

Does it matter how often infants and toddlers are spoken to? Absolutely! Communication and language development in infants and toddlers sets the course for both health and success later in life. Young children’s brains are built through adult-child interactions, responsive caregiving and nurturing language environments. A child’s brain develops rapidly during the first three years of life and talking with infants and toddlers plays an important role in that development. Babies’ brains are like bank accounts and every word spoken to a baby is a dollar in the bank.

This resource from ZERO TO THREE provides strategies to help parents and caregivers support the development of communication and language skills in young children.

Every child deserves a strong start in communication and language development.

Back and forth communicating with infants and toddlers is an important preventative approach to healthy development for all children. Some young children also require specific interventions to assist their development. When provided early in a child’s development, intervention can prevent later need for support or reduce the intensity of ongoing intervention. Early intervention for communication and language needs might include services from a speech and language pathologist or a speech and hearing professional. It’s critical for families and caregivers to know what is available to them and their children, have access to these interventions and receive support in the healthy development of their children.

Join the Conversation!

Want to learn more about the power of communication and language for infants and toddlers? Want to hear about investments in language and communication development in Ohio? Join the Center for Early Learning on August 11 for a virtual discussion on the power of communication and language for infants and toddlers. Register here:  


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