Is your toddler lagging in the speech department? Here's what to expect and how to encourage your little one to talk.
1st off: Toddler Speech Expectations
Children develop at different speeds, and while there are general guidelines from the American Association of Pediatrics and other respectable scientific sources as to what to expect from a child's development timeline, it is important to take things into perspective and be open to allow your little one to blossom at their own pace.
Between 24 and 26 months of age, we can expect a child to be able to start using simple sentences. At about 26 months of age, the expectation is for a child to be understood by non-familiar people, start using pronouns and only after 3, understand what strangers say to them.
How to encourage toddlers to talk
There are simple ways to encourage your toddler to start talking:
- Reading aloud: children's books are a wonderful way for your child to acquire vocabulary. We love using nighttime as the time to read books, which has the added benefit to help establish a healthy sleep routine.
- Telling him all about your day/what you are doing (even if he doesn't respond). When little kids aren't talking, it is hard to engage in real dialogue with them, as we aren't getting any responses. But even if you get zero responses, talk to your child about your day, what you're doing, how you are feeling. Your little one is indeed listening and everything is a learning opportunity for them.
- Singing songs. I like having music in the house. It brings joy and it also the opportunity for your little ones to start singing. We rotate between a more adult playlist and kid-friendly songs, to encourage speech.
- Reaffirming what your toddler says, adding a bit more color. Next time your little one speaks with one word, reaffirm it, and add more color. For example if she says: "Truck!", you can say: "Yes, that is a big red truck!"
- Point and name. A great idea to help your child gain vocabulary is to point at parts of their body, flowers, trees, etc. A short walk around the block is also a wonderful opportunity to point at objects and name them, as part of a game.
Toddler speech and tantrums
Often times, non-verbal children tend to get very frustrated and unable to express emotions... that can turn into epic tantrums.
Encouraging not only practical language but also emotional language will go a long way to tame toddler tantrums.
For example, if you notice that your child often bursts into a temper tantrum when they are frustrated, showing them a visual representation of that emotion and helping them label them will result in a child that tells you they are frustrated and cooperates with you in finding a solution, rather than using screaming, head-banging and other coping mechanisms.
Many kids can also identify (receptive language) more than they can express. To help develop emotional language, we have designed our exclusive Magnetic Emotions Chart.
When to seek professional help
If your toddler isn't using any words by age 2 or sentences by age 3, it is a good idea to consult with your pediatrician or family doctor. They'll evaluate your child and likely refer you to a specialist.
In conclusion, many factors can be affecting your child's ability to speak. The fact that your little one is "lagging" may not really have a direct impact in their overall development, however there are specific tactics you can use to encourage their speech abilities. You got this!