Your child is beginning to become more sensitive to the larger segments of sounds within words (articulatory gestures or features). In developing this awareness they begin to hear and enjoy the rhythmic patterns of these large sound units, providing them with more varied and engaging opportunities for sound and word play.
At about 3 years old, research suggests that a child starts to store sounds units into sets that have the same or similar articulatory gestures or features. There is a limited set of articulatory gestures or features in the English language which are then reorganised and positioned in hundreds of different combinations to form words.
By this stage they are enjoying hearing and participating in action and finger rhymes, joining in ones they know and quickly taking on new rhymes and actions. They will of course have favourites which they never tire of hearing or singing (even though you may be going slightly mad hearing them again).
Your child is starting to understand the more complex meaning of words and concepts such as positions (on, off, in, out, etc) prepositions; size (big and small); quantity (1 and 2) and others such as hot, cold, wet, stop, go, loud, quiet, soft, heavy and colours.
Modelling and showing your child the meaning of words and different concepts is really important if they are to truly understand and use them effectively in their speech (expressive language). For example if you are trying to help them understand the meaning of wet, use water, show them the difference, and let them experience through touch and play what wet feels like compared with dry.
Explaining and using a word in different situations also helps your child to gain a more fuller understanding of a word’s meaning, for instance the word ‘on’ and ‘off’ can be used in different situations; 1. You turn a light on and off. 2. You put the cup on the table or you can take it off the table. 3. Put your shoes on or take your shoes off.
Our language can be very confusing at times so it is important to provide as many opportunities as possible for your child to experience and play with new words and meanings in different ways, locations and times. It is important to model correctly formed sentences and the pronunciation of words. It is NOT about correcting your toddler and making them repeat what you have just said, but repeating back to them what they have said using the correct sentence structure or word pronunciation, modelling (leading by example). They may not be mature enough to pronounce words correctly yet, or form grammatically correct sentence, but it is what they need to be hearing, so they can store the information away for a later date.
Through talking and playing, your child is also continuing to develop other key communication skills such as turn taking, understanding facial expressions and body language and the all-important listening skills. Their receptive language skills are growing fast, especially when compared to those of their expressive language, so they still understand far more than they can express.
At around the age of 2 ½ - 3 years old your toddler is beginning to recognise and produce rhyme through oral word play. They learn through rote and imitation to rhyme words and identify oral rhyming words using real and made up nonsense words.They also enjoy alliteration (words that begin with the same sounds such as ‘Sammy snake slithers silently’) and repeated short phrases which they can anticipate in a story, or rhyme, which they can join in with; such as “I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down!” in the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’.