Watching your little ones learn and grow is one of the most amazing parts of being a parent. As the months and years go by, you’ll see them rapidly hitting new language milestones at all different stages of development.
Understanding and speaking new words is a skill that will emerge before their first birthday and continue to improve through the toddler and preschool years. Every child will learn at his or her own pace, but there are some ways that we, as parents, can help our kids along.
Language Development Milestones
When your child hits the 1-year mark, he or she will have a vocabulary of approximately 1 to 5 simple words. Some of those words may just be babbles, which they associate with an object, for example ba-ba for bottle or wa-wa for water.
By 18 months, they may be speaking about 20-30 words, which may have increased from simple words like milk or ball, to two syllable words like water or pancake.
Around 2-years-old is where their language may really start to explode. At this point, they should be able to string 2 to 3 words together, follow simple directions, and have around 50 or more words.
By age 3, they should have at least 200 words and be able to form simple sentences.
Tips to Improve Language in Toddlers
Below are some tips and activities that will help your toddler learn to speak and improve his or her vocabulary in no time! You’ll be amazed at how fast they start talking when you begin to consistently apply these ideas.
1. Talk to them often
Everyday experiences can be the biggest learning tools for young children. While with your toddler, dictate what you’re doing throughout the day. When you’re changing their diaper, cooking dinner, or on a walk, use both simple and complex language to talk about what you’re doing. Include the sounds you hear, things you see, and actions that you’re doing to allow them to take in all the new vocabulary.
When you’re out of the house, this is a great opportunity for your child to learn words about the places you go. The LeapFrog® 100 Words About Places I Go™interactive book features age-appropriate words about people and objects in 12 unique places in both English and Spanish. Take it with you on your adventures to school, the park, a farm, the amusement park and more, so your child can match the words with the pictures. This book uses touch-sensitive locations on each page to teach toddlers about words, colors, and counting in the context of 12 unique places.
2. Have them repeat
Label objects as much as you can and have them repeat the objects back to you. Start with just one word or even the first sound of the word. If they say ‘muh’ for milk or ‘buh’ for ball, that’s a great start! This shows that they understand that all these objects have names, but they just can’t make all the sounds yet.
3. Use toys and objects that interest them
Determine what your child likes and use that to your advantage. If they obsess over a certain character, music, food, or toy, provide them with plenty of opportunities to see, hear, taste, and play with that item while also talking about it with them. If your child loves cars and trucks, forcing them to learn animal noises may be tough. It will be a lot less of a struggle if they show interest in that activity.
If your toddler loves animals, the LeapFrog® 100 Animals Book™ features interactive pages with animals from 12 habitats and environments. Kids will have an opportunity to explore and learn about animals from the desert, savanna, rainforest and more through its illustrations and photographs. The book also features different modes that teach animal names, animal sounds, and fun facts in English and Spanish.
4. Use items that captivate and hold their attention
Little ones love bright colors, lights, and sounds. Using toys with music and interactive features will help them build vocabulary fast.
The LeapFrog® Speak & Learn Puppy™ talks back to your child while teaching numbers, letters, and emotions with cute, flapping ears. As kids learn to talk, this interactive dog repeats what they say and asks questions to help keep the conversation going. They’ll explore animal facts and sounds, foods, feelings, letters and numbers through Bailey’s four paw buttons and light-up collar.
5. Read to them
Reading to your child is an easy way to expose them to new vocabulary. At this age, it’s not necessary to read books word for word, but take time to describe the pictures instead. Point out objects, colors, and shapes, and of course have them repeat it all back to you, if possible.
6. Allow time for them to respond
As children are learning to talk, their processing speed will be a lot slower than ours. When asking them to repeat a sound or word, or asking a question, they may need extra time. Give them a few seconds to respond before you just decide to give them the answer or move on to the next word.
7. Show excitement in conversation
Use overly exaggerated gestures and facial expressions when conversing with your little one. They will be more interested in speaking and repeating when you’re showing them how exciting it is.
8. Always add words when they use gestures
Don’t let your toddler get in the habit of using gestures, such as pointing and grunting, to get what he or she wants. When toddlers use these gestures instead of words, always say the word or phrase that they should be saying to get what they need. For example, if they’re pointing to their diaper to say that they need to be changed, say “you want your diaper changed?” Have them repeat that phrase or at least the main word to get the point across.
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Consistency is the most important way to get toddlers speaking. The more you talk around them and follow these tips, the more you will see a drastic improvement in their language.
Author Bio: Marissa LaBuz is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist turned stay-at-home mom and full-time blogger who loves sharing her advice and experience with the world. She runs two blogs, Just Simply Mom and Teaching Littles, and an Etsy Shop, all while starting tickle wars and dance parties with two energetic toddlers and calming a newborn baby. When she doesn't have her hands full of children, she enjoys a glass (or 3) of wine, reality tv, and country music.