Talking to your verbal toddler about safety

Being the parent of an infant often involves a lot of guesswork. Is Baby’s cry due to hunger or is something else wrong? Is he just tired or getting sick?

Just as you begin to think you may need a crystal ball to get to the bottom of what ails Baby, you start to see a light at the end of the tunnel – the emergence of language skills.

When do toddlers begin to talk?

As early as the end of Baby’s first year, you may have begun to hear some initial words. By the time month 24 wrapped up, you may have heard anything from basic phrases to simple questions to a growing list of words. Baby’s ability to communicate – with you and others – will go a long way towards clarifying what he needs.

The impact of language on toddler safety

Now that Baby is walking and talking, the world might start feeling like a big, scary place. It can be tough to keep a mobile toddler safe – especially one who loves to say “hi” to everyone he sees. But in a child approaching three, these emerging language skills can also start to pave the way for solid safety precautions if the unthinkable happens and he becomes lost.

  • Use your words: While this seems obvious, make sure Baby knows – and can say – his full name, as well as your name. Make a game out of saying both names and practice often.
  • By the numbers: While learning a phone number and home address might be more challenging for a child at this age, try to at least start the process. Look for a fun way to teach Baby both pieces of information, and if you ever have an option to change or add a phone number, pick one that is easy to remember.

When defiance is dangerous

As Baby exercises his new language abilities, you’ll inevitably hear the word “no” a lot. While it’s a developmentally appropriate phase, parents need to get past “no” when it comes to safety rules.

  • Offer up choices: Have a zero-tolerance policy on defying safety rules, but look for opportunities to give Baby a harmless option. For example, try asking, “Do you want to hold my left hand or my right hand while we cross the street?”
  • Redirect troubling behavior: Sometimes toddlers become focused on an activity that could cause them harm. If they resist your corrections with a resounding “No,” then try redirection. Take Baby by the hand and say, “It’s a sunny day, so let’s go outside and read your new book under the tree.”
  • Channel those verbal skills. To try and break the “no” cycle, engage Baby in daily safety chats using his growing vocabulary. When he tries running up the stairs say, “How do we safely get upstairs? Say it with me, we walk!”

This early language phase can be an exciting time for toddlers and parents, but it can also add a whole new element to keeping Baby safe.

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