Your toddler and the full sentences of the future

Maybe Baby’s the chatty type, or maybe they let actions speak louder than words, but either way, they're growing as a speaker every day. Full sentences may or may not be one of their skills right now, but they're well on their way.

Most children Baby’s age are either stringing together two words into phrases, or getting ready to. These linked thoughts are the foundations of sentences, and the way your toddler tries out new ways of using their vocabulary. They probably doesn’t know more than 50 or so words yet, but they are learning more every day.

By the time they are 3, Baby will probably be stringing three or even four words together into sentences – still simple sentences, but more complete thoughts, rather than the more fragmentary, 2-year-old, two-word phrases. At 3, Baby will probably also be able to use pronouns correctly. Right now, on the other hand, they are probably still trying things out – and there’s a good chance they have gotten the hang of “me” and “mine” first, and is only just starting to work out how to use the rest.

Two-year-olds are also notorious mumblers. They’re still learning the sounds that make up words, and even their parents and close caregivers can often only understand about half of what they say. By age 3, though, even strangers can generally understand about 75% of what toddlers say.

As they get better at communicating their thoughts with you, your toddler will also get better at understanding the things you say to them. They have probably been able to follow simple, one-step directions for a while now. But by the time they are 3, they will probably be able to follow more complicated, two-part requests. Receptive language develops right alongside and generally a little bit ahead of speech, so if you notice Baby saying more, you can bet that they have been understanding more for a little while, too.

Of course, there’s a huge range of speeds of language development, and there’s no telling when Baby will graduate to the wonderful world of full sentences. They are getting there, though – one complex thought at a time.

  • Jay. L. Hoeker. “Should I be concerned that my 2-year-old doesn’t know many words and is hard to understand?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, February 11 2016. Web.
  • “Toddler Talking Milestones.” PBS Parents. PBS. Web.

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