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Nonsense Words

Dori Kaplan, 3, gleefully extends a fistful of seashells to her mom. "Want some ficky?" she proudly asks. "She can say 'shells,' but they're 'ficky' to her," says her mom, Debbie, of Foster City, CA.

Toddlers who make up words are like babies who babble. They're trying out sounds -- and learning from them. Your role:

Don't worry about correcting her. There's no need to repeat back the right word -- she knows what it is, says Lois Cook, a speech-language pathologist in Mt. Kisco, NY. Getting creative helps her better understand how real words work.

Play along. It's more important for her to experience the give-and-take of a conversation than to stick to words actually found in Webster's.

Help her be clear. You may need to point out when her words are confusing to other people. Say, "Your aunt didn't know what you meant when you said 'ficky.' What can you say so she'll understand?"

Enjoy it while it lasts. Jot her favorite nonsense words down in her baby book: By the time she heads to kindergarten, they'll be all but forgotten.

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