Talk To Your Child

The more you talk to your toddler, the more he/she will talk too

Until now, trying to have a conversation with your toddler has been a pretty one-sided affair. But
get ready…a tidal wave of talking is on its way. Between the ages of 2 and 3, kids start picking
up words and mimicking what you say, lightning fast. By at age 2, most toddlers know 20-200
words; by age 3, they can say close to 1,000.

Not surprisingly, parents have a huge impact on their children’s language and speech skills. The
more you encourage your toddler to talk, the better he/she will do in preschool and in life.
Conversely, if your child does not develop a solid verbal foundation as a toddler, he/she may
struggle to keep up with peers.

Remember: All children develop at different rates, but if you’re concerned that your child’s
vocabulary and language skills are not progressing, contact your pediatrician.

How to help your toddler start talking

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we get a lot of questions from parents about their toddler’s
ability to talk and understand words. Drawing on our experience in this area, we’ve put
together a list of ways to help get your little chatterbox going.

1) Read to your child

Reading is one of the best ways to help your toddler begin to talk. Not only does reading give
you great one-on-one time with your child, it teaches important language skills such as the
pronunciation of words, voice inflection and the rhythm of speech.

2) Repeat yourself

Use a new word in more than one sentence to help it stick in your child’s memory. (“Wow, this
ball we’re playing with is big!” “See that car across the street? Look how big it is!”) Toddlers
need to hear words over and over before they become permanent parts of their vocabulary.

3) Be descriptive

Don’t just identify objects, describe them. Talking about how something looks, feels or tastes is a
great way to introduce new words, such as, “This apple is round and red. The skin is so smooth.”

4) Give your toddler simple instructions

Asking your child to do things like “Pick up the ball and throw it to me” or “Bend down and
touch your toes” promotes speech and language comprehension, while also strengthening his/her
ability to follow directions.

5) Don’t monopolize every conversation

In your zest to teach your toddler words, make sure he/she has plenty of opportunities to say
them. Our parents tell us that a toy telephone works well. Pretend to talk to Grandma, then pass
the phone to your child and encourage him/her to chat too.

6) Plan playdates

When toddlers hear other kids their age talking, they typically want to join in. In this way,
playdates help your child practice his/her conversation skills with peers and also help him/her
make friends.

How to determine if your toddler might have a speech problem

Listen for these red flags:

  • By age 2, your child does not make requests like, “Give me a cookie!” or is unable to string two
    words together
  • You can’t understand most of what your child is saying by the time he/she is 3
  • Your child communicates by grunting rather than babbling or talking

If any of these apply to your child, contact your pediatrician or any of us at Westchester Health Pediatrics.