This year, you’ll probably notice Baby is quickly becoming a budding linguist, as he learns new words every day. At this age, most toddlers have a vocabulary of about 300 words, although there’s definitely variation among children. Like all milestones, some children develop speech at this age faster, while other toddlers take their time a little more as they get to know the language.
One thing that’s common for all toddlers who are learning to speak is mispronouncing words. Since language is still new to Baby, if he mispronounces words now and then, it’s to be expected, and it’s generally nothing to worry about.
Common pronunciation problems
Some letter sounds are easier for toddlers to make, like the “m,” “b,” and “p” sounds. This is because they can see these letters being formed on your lips when parents and other adults speak to them. However, other sounds are formed in the back of the throat, and are harder for toddlers to learn and pronounce.
Common issues with toddler speech include letter substitutions, like using the “y” sound instead of “l” in words. Your toddler may also drop consonants at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of words. Many toddlers also have difficulty combining sounds, like “bl,” so that “black” becomes “back”.
When should I intervene?
Pronunciation issues can present difficulty for parents and other listeners, as they do certainly make toddlers more difficult to understand. Still, mispronunciation is expected as Baby learns to speak, and will usually resolve on its own around age 5.
In the meantime, you can help him learn the way words are supposed to be said by making sure he hears them said the right way as often as possible – read lots of books with him, and continue to model the correct pronunciation of words when you talk to him – even if his mispronunciations are really cute.
When he does mispronounce a word, there’s no need to make a big issue of it. Instead, repeat the word back correctly. For example, if he bumped his “yeg,” try saying, “Oh no! Let’s kiss the boo-boo on your leg.” This will allow him to hear it correctly without making him feel embarrassed.
Is it something more?
Most toddlers grow out of speech issues, but some need a bit of extra help. If you’re finding Baby is particularly difficult to understand, or that his speech is not progressing, it may be worth an evaluation to rule out any more severe language problems. In some cases, speech therapy may be recommended to help keep him on track.