Early Language Development

6 Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Talk

By January 14, 2015No Comments

Happy New Year! I’m starting off this new year with a great post from our friends over at Kutest Kids Early Intervention!
Have you ever wondered what exactly speech pathologists do to help kids who are not yet talking, talk? Well, we have a few really good tricks and tips that all parents should know. My youngest daughter, Olivia turns ONE at the end of this month.  She is imitating the things we say all the time.  She has several words and word approximations (beginning sounds of words or syllables that are close to the real word) and everyday it seems like she tries to say something new.  So when I talked to my friends at Kutest Kids EI, I knew this was the perfect article to share since every parent should know how to help increase verbal communication.
These 6 tips should be in every parent’s bag of tricks.  Some might surprise you too…as speech therapists we like to suggest that all that “cutsie-tutsie, baby-waby” talk take a hike. It really just ends up providing an inaccurate model for speech production.  When your child’s brain is rapidly mapping and tuning into everything you are saying, it is best to keep it accurate and to use the real word(s).
Read on for more great tips on getting your toddler to talk. After all, it’s those first words and sentences that change your life forever.  Is there anything more precious than your baby’s first words? Not in my book.  Of course, I am a speech pathologist so maybe I’m biased! But it’s definitely up there with all those amazingly, wonderful ‘firsts’ that occur in our kids’ development! They are just pure joy.

6 Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Talk

Portrait of a happy mother laughing with cute baby in crib
Most toddlers begin speaking in earnest between the ages of two and three. Their vocabulary can jump from a dozen words to more than 1,000 in as little as one year. You can help your child develop their language skills by working with them in a fun and supportive manner.
#1: Skip the Baby Talk
Baby talk may sound cute, but it does your child no favors when it comes to learning language skills. Skip the cooing and blurry consonant sounds and instead focus on articulating words clearly. You must model proper speech if you want your toddler to learn these skills. Look right at your child when speaking, so they can see your mouth movements and begin to mimic them.
Baby talk is a natural language stepping stone for your child; your job is to replace these initial sounds with the correct words. For example, if your child says “ba-ba” when requesting a bottle, hand them the bottle and say, “here is your bottle.” Eventually, your child will replace “ba-ba” with “bottle,” thus improving their vocabulary.
#2: Ask Questions
Talking requires comprehension, which is simplest to develop by asking questions. Questions are an open-ended method that encourages your child to participate in a conversation at their level. Even a child that is not yet verbal benefits from early question and answer exercises.
Start simple and make it a game. Ask your toddler to find certain objects in the room. A non-verbal child usually will point to the item or bring it to you. You can respond back with the proper verbalization – “That’s right, this is your blanket!” Make it sound fun and exciting. The next verbal step will be when your child begins bringing you the blanket and saying the object name, “here’s blanket!” Eventually, you can move on to more involved questions, such as asking about favorite items or describing things.
#3: Make it Story Time
Reading is one of the best methods for building a toddlers vocabulary. Although it may seem tedious, reading a favorite book over and over is an excellent way to form language skills. Pause throughout the reading to encourage your child to finish the sentence – often a toddler has memorized favorite books.
Also, use reading time as an opportunity to ask questions. What happens next? Why did the character do something? These simple questions test your child’s language comprehension while giving them a chance to verbalize.
#4: Give a Play-by-Play
Self talk and parallel talk may sound like you are giving a play-by-play rundown, but it’s an extraordinary tool for building language skills. When spending time with your toddler, keep the banter going by describing everything you are doing in a conversational tone.
An example of self-talk:
“It’s time to make dinner. See, I’m getting out the pot. Now we just need to put the water in it and let it boil. Do you see how the steam comes from the top?”
Parallel talk is nearly the same, except you are vocalizing what the toddler is doing. Pause between sentences to give your child a chance to chime in. Keep it simple at first, using only one or two words to describe your or your child’s actions. As they begin to join in, you can use longer sentences or more complicated words. The goal is to be conversational without overwhelming your child.
#5: Show What You Mean
Gestures and hand movements are an excellent way to convey meaning, so your child can better build their vocabulary. Simple hand gestures or facial expressions give your child more clues to word meaning, while also giving them something to associate with the words. This helps build language memory.
Point at objects as you name them is one common way of using gestures. Talking with your hands or even incorporating American Sign Language into your speech can also help build language skills.
#6: Play a Game
Verbal games are a fun way to learn language skills. A few easy games for toddlers that help build vocabulary and comprehension include:

  • Simon says
  • Toy scavenger hunts
  • Creating made-up stories
  • Finger games, such as itsy-bitsy spider or where is Thumbkin

All children are different, so if your toddler is slightly delayed when it comes to talking there is no need to panic. There is also a wealth of information available for children that require a little bit of extra help with their language development skills.
Your pediatrician can help you determine if your child is still within the normal range, and they may be able to provide you with more tips that are tailored to your child’s individual needs.

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