Helping Your Child Learn And Talk

There are some very normal young children who start talking late. Maybe they don’t say their first word until 18 months or a bit older. Maybe they have a very limited vocabulary at 24 months and have not yet started to put words together like, “More milk.” There are some 12 to 24 month old children who are hard to understand even though they have a normal vocabulary and have started putting words together.

Naturally, caring parents can become concerned when they see their young children struggling to communicate or not using words to communicate.  However, there is a lot that parents can do to help their children.

Before I talk about the ways you can help your child, I would like to help ease your concerns. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Children usually start talking between the ages of 12 and 24 months.
  • Boys tend to lag behind girls in their speech and language development.
  • Some children who talk very little before 24 months can start to talk quite a lot between the ages of 24 and 36 months old.

There are easy ways for parents to help their children use more words and put words together.

Reduce the amount of words you use when you talk with your child. Some very young children can be overwhelmed by hearing a lot of words. When they hear a lot of words they have a hard time picking out the important word or two that will get them started.
If your child does not yet use words to communicate, use only one or two words when you talk to her. Instead of saying a full sentence like, “Let’s put on your shoes now,” say, “Shoes.” When you ask a question try using one word with a question inflection. So “Shoes?” can be used in place of, “Where are your shoes?”
If your child uses two words on his own, you use two or three words when talking to him. “Put on shoes” or “Shoes on” can easily communicate the same idea as, “We need to put your shoes on now.”

Use words as much as you can when you are with your child. Most everything in your child’s life is new vocabulary. When you hand or show your child something, use a word. If it is cup of milk, you can say, “Cup,” “Milk,” or “Drink.” A trip to the supermarket, playground and a walk outdoors offers tons of opportunities for vocabulary building.
Use words when you watch your child play, even if she plays silently. Talk about what your child is doing using one or two words. Play alongside your child, on your own. As you play with the toys talk to yourself. Words like zoom, car, fast and so on will work. When you talk about your play aloud, don’t be surprised to see your child show interest in what you are doing.
Repeat what your child has just said. Children like to know that the adult they are with has listened and understood them. When you repeat what the child has said you are

  1. letting the child know that you are interested in what she has to say
  2. indicating that you have understood him
  3. offering a good model for the word so that, in time, the child will learn to say the word as you do.
Add one word to what your child has said. If your child says, “Car,” repeat “Car” and then attach another word to it like, “Your car,” “Brown car,” “Big car,” or “Car goes.” If your child uses two words, repeat and add a third so that, “Big cookie,” expands to “Your big cookie,” or “Big brown cookie.” By adding a word to the core word, you are showing your child how easy it is to increase his length of utterance.
Using the techniques described above will help empower you to make a big difference in your child’s speech and language development. For some children, this can mean learning to speak so that she will not need speech therapy. If your child does need speech therapy, he will most likely be further ahead when he starts therapy.