According to the CDC, by 18 months a child should be able to say several words, shake their head no, and point towards desired objects. By 18 months children are expected to communicate using words and begin experimenting with the foundation of sentences. And by two and a half years of age, children are expected to be able to say 570 words.
If you think anything like I do, that sounds like a lot of progress for a child my son Salem’s age to make in a year. There is a lot of pressure to ensure that your toddler is speaking both clearly and effectively. But what about when they don’t?
In an attempt to promote effective speech habits in our children, I highlighted a few tips that can be found in More Than Baby Talk, a guide developed by Nicole Gardner-Neblett and Kathleen Cranley Gallagher of Chapel Hill the University of North Carolina said help encourage healthy speech development in toddlers.
Believe it or not, babies are not born with language schemas in the same way they are born with mobile functions. For that reason, it is important to spend time talking to your child each day. Baby talk is not enough to facilitate healthy language development. Speak to them in full sentences and let them hear you have conversations with others so they have the chance to get an idea how language works.
One of Salem’s favorite words is “ball.” He learned that word because each time he picked up his favorite red squishy object we told him the name of it. Within a few months he would pick up the ball on his own and bring it to us saying “ball” to let us know he wanted to play.
Many toddlers are not in a position to speak full sentences. However, they quickly pick up on the words that represent their favorite items and activities, so keep the words coming!
Read to them – a lot
Most of us know the importance of reading to our children. But according to More Than Baby Talk, we should read the same books many times.
Reading the same books multiple times gives children the ability to focus on the details of the story. The first time, they might learn about the character, the second time, they may notice that there’s a picture of a ball on the page, and the third time they may notice the cover of the book itself. When you read to your child you are helping them develop language skills. Do it as much as you can and see if they can answer age-appropriate questions about the book.
Because most of the words my son knows relate to food, we do our best to practice saying other words as often as possible. While knowing words about food is great when it’s time to eat, there are plenty of other words we would like him to be able to say.
We want him to expand his vocabulary and we don’t want him to rely on his go-to “eat,” “food,” and “snack.” We are diversifying his vocabulary by working to add other related words like “please,” “hungry,” and “cup.”
As parents, we have a key role in setting the foundation of our children’s language skills. They may not know many words now, but with verbal interaction like conversations and reading, they will quickly improve. As with anything, some children develop slower with language than others. If you are concerned with your child’s language development, look for local organizations geared toward speech development or schedule an appointment with a speech pathologist. They can help you determine if your child needs extra assistance.
About the author:
Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a writer who specializes in sociology, health, and parenting. Her work has appeared in Healthline, Yes! Magazine, HuffPost, Allure, and many other publications. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her website.
- Nicole Gardner-Neblett, Kathleen Cranley Gallagher. “More Than Baby Talk.” Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013. Retrieved September 5 2017. http://mtbt.fpg.unc.edu/sites/mtbt.fpg.unc.edu/files/imce/documents/BabyTalk_WEB.pdf.
- “Child Development Tracker, 1 to 2: Language.” PBS Parents. PBS. Retrieved September 5 2017. http://www.pbs.org/parents/childdevelopmenttracker/one/language.html.
- “Child Development Tracker, 2 to 3: Language.” PBS Parents. PBS. Retrieved September 5 2017. http://www.pbs.org/parents/childdevelopmenttracker/two/language.html.
- “Important Milestones: Your Child By Eighteen Months.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, August 15 2016. Retrieved September 5 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-18mo.html.