Why It’s So Important to Talk To Your Toddler

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Did you know that the more you talk to your toddler, the more he/she will talk, too? It’s true—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, possibly for years to come. Yes,

Between the ages of 2 and 3, young children start picking up words and mimicking what you say, amazingly fast. In fact, by age 2, most toddlers know 20-200 words. By age 3, they can say close to 1,000. Yes, talking to your toddler, all the time, is very important.

How to help your toddler start talking

Robert Pitaro 1R WEB72

Robert Pitaro, MD

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 off and running.

1) Read to your child

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

2) Repeat yourself

It’s important to use a new word in more than one sentence to help it stick in your child’s memory. (“Wow, you’re getting so big!” “Doesn’t Daddy have big feet!”) Toddlers need to hear words over and over again before they become permanent parts of their vocabulary.

3) Be descriptive

Take time to describe objects, emotions, colors, smells…everything, rather than just naming 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. Our kitten’s fur is so smooth and soft.”

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 take over the conversation

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

6) Plan playdates with other toddlers to encourage talking

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. A win-win!

How to know if your toddler might have a speech problem

It’s important to discuss early speech and language development, as well as other developmental concerns, with your pediatrician at every routine well-baby visit. It can be difficult to tell whether your child is just delayed in his or her ability to communicate or has a problem that requires professional attention.

To get some clues, listen for these red flags:

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

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

If you’re worried that your child is not saying enough words or talking early enough, come see us.

If you’re concerned about your child’s language development, or if you have other questions relating to your child’s health and well-being, please come in to see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. Together, we’ll determine if there’s a problem and what steps need to be taken.

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By Robert Pitaro, MD, a Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatrician.

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About the Author: ML Ball