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Why Kids Don't Talk

People are always trying to engage your toddler: "How old are you?" "Your shoes are so cool!" But even though he knows his age and how to say thank you, he doesn't respond.

Is he shy? Hardly. Two- and 3-year-olds are still learning conversation skills and prefer predictable exchanges. "None of our students talk to us when they first visit," says preschool teacher Karen Flett of Norwich, VT. "We're not their family, so we're not on the short list of people they're willing to talk to."

To encourage a tight-lipped kid:

Prep him. If you see a chatty neighbor approaching, tell your child, "Here comes Mrs. Tate. It looks like she may want to say hello."

Role-play at home. Most polite conversation follows a script. Encourage him to try easy phrases, such as saying "Thank you" at the cash register in stores.

Prompt him. He'll feel more comfortable if he can count on you to clue him in during conversations. Whisper help -- "What do we say when someone tells us something nice?" -- when needed.

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