I love kids. Those little weirdos have some of the best comedic timing on the planet — which is impressive considering they've never taken a single class at the Second City.
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But when a kid hasn't figured out how to have a normal conversation yet, I low-key panic...because what! are! they! saying???????
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I'm not alone in my anxiety. Recently, Redditor u/LPOLED asked "When a little kid speaks to me, WHAT am I supposed to do?" And wow, Reddit delivered. Here are some of the best responses.
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1."I think of children as stoned or drunk. Seeing kids as little brain-fried adults has helped me interact with them.
"If my stoned friend is saying he's literally a flower and aliens are in his backyard, I'll just be like, 'Yeah man that's real cool. That's so interesting.' If my drunk friend is having a hard time walking, is really giggly, or I can't understand him, I just encourage him for doing his best."
2."You can't always have a conversation with a baby or a toddler, but you can mimic the rhythms of a conversation. The conversation may be nonsense, but it's a good way to help teach kids while they're still learning how to speak.
"For older kids, there's always Duolingo for kids."
3."Talk like that video that pops up every once in a while with a dad and his kid (maybe a year old) sitting on the couch. The dad responds to the kid like he understands what the kid is saying, and they're having a real convo."
4."Talk to them like you’re discussing a global policy.
'OK, I see what you’re saying.'
'Hmm, that I don’t agree with.'
'Well when you say it that way, it makes more sense.'"
5."Don't worry, it's a learned skill. I work with 10+ toddlers every day. Here are some great things to say:
"'And then what happened?'
'Oh my gosh! Please tell me more.'
'What did they say then?'
Always ask open ended questions."
"'Where did you learn about that?'
'I must agree.'
'Couldn't have said it better myself!'"
"'Sup lil dude?'
'Yeah, you got it!'
Essentially, just become an NPC."
6."Signs and gestures develop before syntax, so any improvised sign you can use with the hands or posture is usually beneficial.
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"You want to convey that you are delighted by them, and the chance to play with them."
7."Just make sure no matter the age you speak to them like any other adult or teenager. There's a real issue with people baby talking their toddlers, and it just stunts their speech."
8."I've found that I can always get a toddler interested in a conversation about their shoes, especially if they have some interesting feature like cartoon characters or lights.
"'Oh my gosh, who is on your shoes?! Dora? I love Dora! Whoa, are those lights? You have light-up shoes? I bet you can jump high in those! Let me see how you can jump!' and so on."
9."The real secret is to pretend like you need their help with stuff they know. I do a routine of sorts where I don't know what color my shoes are, but it's very important that I find out and I need their help."
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10."Most of the time, little children want to tell you things about themselves — their family, food they like, what they are doing that day.
"They might sometimes ask questions, which you can answer, but don’t feel you need to be honest. Just say something easy, as they’ll likely forget it immediately."
11."React big. 'Oh, no! And what did he say next? No way, you’re kidding!' Then slap your face, Home Alone-style. They love that shit!
"They’ll probably copy you, then you can get into a big weird face-slapping competition. It’s fun!"
12."Pretend it’s improv. 'You pick up the phone and it’s the Queen of England asking what kind of ice cream toppings are best. Aaaand go!'"
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"It's a lot like 'Yes, and...' in improv. Keep the conversation flowing even if it's not 100% understood on each side."
13."Just say 'show me.' It helps with so many misunderstandings."
14."Pretty much just do the same thing you would do if your dog or cat was really chatty: Pay attention to what they're doing or saying, and respond as if you both understand each other."
15."Little kids have fantastic senses of humor. You don't need to know what the hell they are really talking about to joke around with them and give them a 'hard time.'
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"If they're babbling on about something like a playground and are wearing a Spider-Man shirt, just ask them if they think Spider-Man could do the monkey bars. If they say 'Yes!' you say, 'No, I think his hands would get stuck' and start 'arguing' with them.
"They might be confused or ornery for a minute of this before they realize you're joking around, but then, usually, if you put a big joking smile on your face, they'll beam with a giant smile and start laughing at you. Then, they love you because you're the 'fun' person, and all the adults are impressed with you.
"Even with younger or very hard-to-understand kids, you can usually make this work."
16."Whatever's in your hand, hold it on your head and ask, 'Do you like my hat?' Kids shit themselves laughing over that."
17."What do you do if a 3-year-old hands you a toy telephone (or a banana)? You answer it."
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Some replies have been edited for length and clarity.