Hello! I’m Jocelyn Rosborough, speech language pathologist (SLP), owner of Rosy Speech and Language, wife and mama of two little kiddos. I love supporting parents and their children in their unique communication journeys.
Does this sound familiar?
“Oh, your toddler hasn’t said any words yet… just wait until he’s 2, I’m sure he’ll start talking!”
Whether it’s your doctor, mom or well-meaning friend that said this to you… it’s not great advice. Here’s why:
For parents, they often feel like they don’t know how to help their child who they know is struggling to communicate. And waiting without a way to help just leads to more worry and stress.
For the child, this often means they have delayed language skills, tons of frustration and extra meltdowns because they can’t communicate the way they want to.
And as a toddler parent myself, I already know there’s enough meltdowns in the average toddler, let alone a toddler who can’t communicate well.
Also, you’re not crazy if you feel like your toddler who is late to talk, seems to have more tantrums than their peers with typical communication.
A recent study confirms that late talkers have severe and/or frequent temper tantrums at nearly double the rate of their peers with typical language skills (Manning, 2019).
So, we know our toddlers should have some words but what should we actually expect for overall communication in this age group?
By 18 months your child should:
Understand at least 50 words
Consistently follow simple 1-step directions
Understand some location words (in, on)
Point to familiar people and objects in pictures
Point to 6 body parts on themselves or a doll
Use between 10-50 words
Imitate new words frequently
Name 5-7 familiar objects on request
Continue to use lots of gestures purposefully (shake head yes, where gesture, etc)
By 24 months your child should:
Understand at least 300 words
Consistently follow 2-step related directions (e.g. go get your shoes and bring them to mom)
Understand the meaning of action words (e.g. eat, sleep, jump, throw)
Understand the command “sit down”
Point to four body parts and pieces of clothing on themselves
Use between 50-300 words
Use two-word phrases frequently (e.g. hi mama, more cracker, no sleep)
Imitate 2-3 word phrases
Refer to themselves by name
Use many different consonant sounds and vowels
Be understood at least 25% of the time
As you can see, there is quite a lot going on with language by 2 years of age.
If your toddler isn’t talking and you wait until 2 years old to seek help, there could be a big gap between where your child is and the skills they should have at that age. The longer you wait, potentially the larger that gap can be.
So, what can you do to help your toddler’s language skills? Here’s some tips to start trying at home today:
Narrate your day. Talk to your child about what is happening and what you see, especially during familiar routines like bed time, bath time, meal time, diaper changes etc. Children learn language from you by hearing it in a situation that is meaningful to them. This is helpful to first build their understanding of what the words mean and then to support their ability to say these words!
Get face to face. Make sure that when you are playing or interacting with your child, they can see your face and you can see theirs. This allows your child to see and hear what you are saying clearly and get more information from your facial expressions. It also allows you to see what your child is looking at and interested in talking about!
Model simple language at your child’s level or use the “one up” strategy. If your child is not yet using words, focus on modelling one word at a time. If they are using single words, “one up” to model 2-word phrases, if they use 2-word phrases, you “one up” to 3-word phrases and so on!
Imitate your child and encourage them to imitate you. And I’m not just talking about words. Imitation develops in several stages starting with objects, body parts, sounds, and then words. So, copy what your child does with their toys or big movements like jumping and waving. Use animal sounds and other silly sounds with your toddler.
Make comments instead of asking questions. When we ask our child lots of questions, it tends to put pressure on them to communicate and actually can have the opposite effect of our child talking less. Instead of asking “what’s this?”, you could model “it’s a cow”. Instead of asking “do you like bananas?”, model “these bananas are yummy!”.
If you’ve given these tips a try and still feel like your child is struggling to communicate or not meeting the milestones listed above, reach out to a speech language pathologist right away. Don’t just wait and see!
If you have questions about speech and language, are concerned about your child’s language development, or just want to learn more feel free to contact me through my website www.rosyspeechlanguage.com by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along on Instagram @rosyspeech!