Mindful Listening with the Toddlers

By Whitney Kimbro, Head Teacher, Toddler A

During our recent visit with Marta Donahoe, she spoke with us about being mindful listeners and how to communicate with one another. These are things we should work on with our toddlers as well, especially during this time when they are at such a sensitive period for language.  

The toddler is navigating language in a new way. They are reaching for a full grasp of the way those around them use language. They are working to express their own thoughts, experiences, and feelings. It is up to us to model appropriate conversation, provide enriching language and help them recognize the feelings within themselves and others around them.  

“Children learn to understand and use language by listening to and interacting with the people close to them.  Adults help children to make sense out of the world by giving them words for objects, for actions, and for feelings.  Learning to talk comes naturally to most children as they begin to understand that words stand for things and that with these words they can influence the actions of people around them” (Sue Kennedy).

Early conversation is essential for child development. We believe a powerful way to learn a skill is through practice, and with language, conversations provide the ultimate “learning by doing” experience. Conversations between adults and children show them that they are seen and helps them to feel valued. In our environment, we converse with the children throughout the day. Any item in the room, even in our day, or thought from a child’s soul becomes a worthy and captivating topic!  

It is important that when we are communicating with children we speak clearly and accurately. As we model speech, we speak slowly, enunciate as precisely as possible, and gently echo back correct pronunciation if a word is mispronounced. We use the real names for everything. For example: a cow is a cow, not a “moo moo”.  

Being mindful of how we speak to children, and other adults is so important. It’s challenging for toddlers to understand the concept of negatives. Being specific on what they can do makes it easier for your toddler to understand, and they are more likely to learn from the experience and cooperate with the request in the future. One example is: “Please keep your feet on the floor” instead of “don’t climb that”.   

The way we communicate can be powerful and incredibly impactful as your toddler is learning new language skills.

“Words are bonds between men, and the language they use develops and ramifies according to the needs of their minds. Language, we may say, grows with human thought” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind).

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