This is my toddler. I am his translator. At nearly twenty-three months of age, my little guy has lots of words (literally more and more every day). However, my husband and I are the only people who are able to understand seventy percent of what is coming out of his mouth. So I translate for him. Anybody out there doing the same thing?

In case you aren't familiar with this parental practice, toddler translating is simply the process of taking your child's barely intelligible words and turning them into something coherent and maybe even brilliant. For example, your little guy utters some gibberish like, “Mama moor oothy.” As his parent (and constant companion), you (usually) know what he means. So you respond (in a tone that conveys that his communication was clear as day), “Of course you can have more smoothie, my love” while the other people around you wonder, “What the hell did that kid just say?”

I know that I am not alone in struggling to understand the words coming out of my toddler's mouth. Understanding toddlers' communications can be challenging and sometimes lead to frustration for both parent and child. But I also find this stage of language acquisition to be relatively hysterical. Sure, listening to the kiddos try to say new words is funny. But the parents (myself included) provide the real entertainment. In my own defense, I am trying to model language for him with all of my repeating and clarifying. But I am also certainly trying to say to those around us, "Isn't he smart?" I am showing off my son's verbal talents (with a little embellishment here and there). I admit it.

Here are a few examples of the wonders I am able to work with my toddler translating. He says, "Nane in iyyyyyy!" I say (in my best Stepford wife tone), "That's right, there is a airplane up in the sky." He says, "Dada go wor choo-choo." I say, "You are right! Daddy took the train to work this morning!" He says, "Rock, rock, dog, uck." I respond, "You want to read the dog book and the truck book in your rocking chair before nap?" And when I have no idea what he is saying, I venture a guess anyway. He says, "ren." I guess siren, iron, lion, and on and on.

To a certain extent, I stand by my repeating, interpreting and embellishing. How is the kid ever going to know how to pronounce words correctly unless I model them for him? But I also recognize that my behavior is more about me than him sometimes. I am his Mom and I should be able to understand what he is saying, right? At least, I want it to appear that way.

Do you struggle to understand your toddler? What strategies work for your family? Share any tips you have for improving communication between parents and toddlers.