It's common, in parks and on playgrounds and in any other places families frequent, to hear moms and dads encourage their toddlers, "Use your words."
Our 15-month-old daughter Mihret is in the middle of a language explosion. She's encouraging us every day to help her use her words.
The few baby signs she knows are giving way to sounds, and sometimes she's bypassing the signs altogether. Sometimes she gets so excited that, when she can, she uses both.
She's learning to recognize that objects have names, although she's in that stage where a few favorites cover a lot of territory.
All red fruits are "apples," all people are "babies" (except Mommy, Daddy, and my father, her "papa") and most furry or hairy animals are "puppies," except when they're "monkeys" and "kitties."
On a walk to the library from our home in downtown Appleton on a recent afternoon, Mihret, bouncing on my husband Josh's chest in a Baby Bjorn carrier, surveyed the world from her outward-facing perch. Every few minutes, she'd point at a parked truck or a tall tree and ask, "What's that?"
Every sight was a potential new word for our little vocabulary sponge to soak in. She'd repeat the words gleefully, every time we passed a truck or tree.
When we returned home and set Mihret down to play, she eagerly ran to her high chair and motioned to her mouth, emphatically declaring, "I eat! I eat!"
When she screeched for her sippy cup of soy milk, we gently prompted her to ask nicely.
She grinned at us, then energetically rubbed both hands across her chest to sign the word at the same time she said, "Peeez, peeez."
You just say the word, Mihret, and we'll be there for you.
Kara Patterson: Post-Crescent staff writer