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Got a burgeoning talker on your hands? (Maybe she’s thisclose to saying her first word. Maybe she’s already got a couple “mamas” and “dadas” under her belt.) Want to help her in her quest for language? We checked in with New York-based speech-language pathologist Kelly Lelonek (speechwithkelly@gmail.com) for tips on helping your little one on the road to communication.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways to Stimulate a Baby’s Mind and Body

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Get Down On the Floor

You know what’s overwhelming? A loud, frantic giant hovering above you. Get down on your child’s level when you talk to him, and speak slowly and quietly. See? We’re feeling calmer already.

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And Follow Your Child’s Lead and Interests

Does he love farm animals? Then bring on the moo’ing and barn-talk. Can’t get enough Elmo? Let’s talk about Elmo! Wait to see what your kid wants to play with before imposing your own agenda.

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Vary Your Intonation

No, you don’t have to sound like a sing-songy psychopath, but varying your voice and pitch teaches your child meaning and helps him differentiate words and phrases.

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Interpret and Label

“This” and “that” might suffice when you’re talking to another adult. But with kids it’s all about specifics. So if your child points to the sheep, say, “You want the sheep?” instead of “Here, let me hand that to you.”

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Speak at Their Level

It can be tempting to give a grown-up narration of the things you’re doing. (“Mama is so tired from her day at the office that she is collapsing onto the chaise lounge and having a glass of wine.”) But you’re better off going for short, clear utterances—“sitting down” or “putting on diaper”—if you want your little one to understand and imitate.

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Speaking of Imitation...

When your child says something incorrectly (for instance, “wabbit”), be sure to repeat it slowly and properly. (“Yes, honey, rabbit.”)

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Ask Open-Ended Questions

When possible, avoid questions with only one answer. (“Do you want the red crayon?”) Instead, give options: “Which do you want…red or yellow?” Then wait for your child to respond with her answer. 

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Read Books Every Day

Reading = Love. (Also, extra vocabulary words.)

RELATED: How to Raise a Kid Who Loves to Read

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