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15 Tips To Teach Your Toddler To Talk: Improve Speech Development to Lessen Parent and Child Frustration

When you teach your toddler to talk, you’re sure to garner a few “WOWS!” But the real blessing is in the gift of speech and articulation that you are giving your little one. By simply following these 15 tips to teach your toddler to talk, you’ll be doing a huge favor for your kiddo!
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Wow, He Talks Really Well

Whenever someone asks me how old my youngest child is, I know what’s coming next. Strangers ask this question after chatting with him for a minute. After I tell his age, the response is always the same, ”Wow, really? He talks so well for his age!” “Yup. He does.” I jokingly tell them that his siblings get most of the credit for his vocabulary. Although I’m not really kidding.

Honestly, though, I just love chatting with my little people. So knowing how to teach a toddler to talk has always been important to me. I start working on vocabulary and speech patterns early with my kids.

Doing so has produced excellent conversation skills for each one of them.

The toddler years offer up the best chance to teach your child to talk. He is already learning new sounds, lip and tongue movements, and trying to mimic you. Using the development that is happening naturally during this time of his life – to his advantage is a smart parenting move.

Why is Toddler Talk Important?

One study I read recently stated that almost 8% of U.S. Children have a communication disorder. Do you know how communication (speech) disorders are treated?

Therapy.

You know what therapy is?

…Practice.

Being intentional to teach your toddler to speak real sounds and words correctly from the very start will go a long way in their speech (and brain) development.

Listen to me, Mommy… you have monumental amounts of power and influence when it comes to your child’s speech development.

Children learn at varying levels, but you have a lot of say-so in the matter.

A few weeks ago, my 3-year-old was walking by and said, “Mommy, I just STINKIN’ love you!!!” I was immediately thrown into a fit of laughter. I was also filled with humility and gratitude at the impact my words and training are having.

You see, I say silly things… a lot.

All 4 of my kids have adopted some characteristic of the way I talk. Truth be told, they have all taken on many of my speech habits. However, this youngest of mine has a full-on Mommy mouth!

The impact you have on your toddler’s speech cannot be overstated. You have the power. Pun intended.

toddler talking on the phone for 15 tips to teach your toddler to talk

15 Tips To Teach Your Toddler To Talk.

#1. Teach your toddler in 2-word pieces. Thus meaning, two words at a time. Any more than that and she may not be able to hold it all in her brain at a time.

#2. Make the most of the times when she wants something the most. Use favorite foods, toys, and books to get compliance.

#3. Make him ask for everything! You know what your child wants. You can read his body language, his facial expressions, and his tone. Go beyond knowing him and teach him by making him ask.

#4. After a while, start stringing two-word phrases together to make sentences.

#5. Make exaggerated mouth movements she can SEE.

Examples of daily speech development tips

#6. When you are carrying her around, and she gets squirmy, don’t just put her down. Make her ask for it. Say: “Say, Get. (pause for 2 seconds) Down.” Offer immense praise when she makes any attempt to say two words, then let her down.

#7. When she wants her sippy cup of milk in the morning, and she is reaching for the counter and grunting for you to hand it to her, say: “Say, “Cup. (pause for 2 seconds) Please.” Offer significant praise when she asks and give her the cup.

#8. Do #6 and #7 – not 2 or 3 times throughout the day, but all day long. It takes minimal extra effort on your part and the return on investment with your child’s speech is huge.

#9. Before handing your child a toy, emphasize the consonant sound that the toy starts with or the sound that it makes if applicable. For instance, if you are handing your son his favorite toy truck, say: “Trucks go Vvvvrrrmm Vvvrrrmm! Say, Vvvrrrmm. Vvvrrrmm.” Once he’s made a solid attempt to make the vroom sound, give him the toy.

What YOU Can do to Teach Your Toddler to Talk.

#10. Burst into song in the middle of a sentence! Ya, this is fun and hilarious and something I have always done.

I was very excited when I learned singing your sentences is good speech therapy. At our house this looks and sounds like this: Instead of just saying, I like your sandcastle. I would say, “I like your (then sing) saa-aaa-nnn-dd (then say) castle.

#11. Use flashcards. However, focus on the sound the letter or object represents instead of the letter or object’s name. Try to use flashcards like these for a few minutes every day.

#12. Stress the use of consonants and praise your child when you hear them. Grunting sounds, which are easier, are mostly vowels.

#13. Don’t ask your child, “Can you say ball?” Tell him, “You must say ball.”

Get others involved in teaching your toddler to talk.

#14. Put other children to work teaching your toddler to talk.

  • I mentioned earlier that my older children are primarily responsible for how well my toddler-turned-preschooler can talk. It’s true. The older kids have grown up with intentional speech training, so they naturally do it as well. I can remember watching my older son teaching his toddler brother to talk in complete sentences. Little man was out of ketchup on his plate and wanted some more. Big brother noticed his little brother’s dilemma and said, “Look at my face. Say, ‘bubba (pause for repeat) please (pause for repeat) get (pause for repeat) me (pause for repeat) more (pause for repeat) ketchup (pause for a repeat.)’ Great job, buddy! Here you go.” All 3 of my older children have walked their baby brother through complete sentences like this regularly. Thus…. His extraordinary conversation abilities.

#15. Don’t allow your child to whine! This is very counterproductive in developing speech.

When your baby is entering kindergarten, you’ll want to be able to look back and know that you did everything in your Mommy-power to set him up for speech success.

Your Toddler Really Can Speak Properly.

The age at which your toddler should speak depends largely on his home life and environment. Use many opportunities (not just one or two) to teach 2-word pieces, require an obedient attempt, and be intentional with speech training on a daily basis. You can not raise the same child twice. In 4 years, you’ll be so glad to know you did everything you could to develop her speech correctly.

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14 Comments

  1. How do you go about not allowing your child to whine? I have a very whiny 22 month old. I ask him to use his words (lots of times I can’t guide him in those words because I genuinely don’t know what he is whining for) and then he tries to say it but I’m unsure what he’s asking for. So he gets frustrated and I do as well.

    1. Hi Justina!

      Thanks for reaching out. I’d recommend picking him up and walking around. Point to things as you walk together, and use simple one-syllable words that he can work towards emulating. Such as “Want?” “This?” “Me?” etc… Even if the two of you settle on something that wasn’t the original thing he was whining about, you’ll be reinforcing proper communicating as opposed to whining.

  2. Thank you for you suggestions. I have a three year old grandson that isn’t talking except for a few words and then they are often hard to understand. Your ideas look very promising and I can’t wait to try them and show them to his parents.

  3. Hi my son is 17 months and i know he had said mama and dads in the last but he doesn’t use them consistently. When i try to work on having his say any word that we are working on he through a tantrum and is obstinate to the point he refuses to even try to say or do what i ask. I’m not sure how to approach his language development when his behavior needs work and i have no idea what to for his tantrums. I have read so many books and strategies but nothing seems to stick with him.

    1. Hi Katie!

      Thanks so much for sharing your heart and struggle. You are 100% right when you say you can’t do much with his language development when his behavior is what needs work first. You said you have read many books and strategies but nothing seems to stick. I would ask just how long you stuck with any one strategy before moving on to another. Given that he is only 17-mos old and that it can take months of consistent implementation and follow-through of firm and healthy authoritative parenting to see real change and breakthrough in child behavior, I’d venture to say he hasn’t had enough of the right strategy for long enough. I offer a free discipline guide that would be a great start. You can request it here.

      Blessings,
      Shelley

  4. My 3 year old son talks sings clearly. He can recognize and say the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. He can count items… BUT he can’t / or won’t communicate with us or others. He can’t ask for milk , snack, park… he will cry or have a fit when he wants something, but we don’t know what he wants. What steps should I follow in order to help him?

    1. Hi Ellie!

      Thanks so much for reaching out! I’m sorry you’re having this trouble, and I know you must be concerned. Have you spoken to your child’s doctor? My recommendation would be to start there. Eliminate any concerns over developmental possibilities, and then you’ll be better able to work on the behavioral possibilities.

      Keep in touch,
      Shelley

  5. I have a 2 year old and I’m loving her language development. Toddlers trying to talk are adorable! I love these tips, especially bursting into song in the middle of a sentence! I’ll be trying these tips!

  6. Hello,

    My son is 19 months old, and can only say Mum, Dad, Nan, Bub and nummy num (supposed to be yummy yum for food).
    I read with him and talk to him as often as possible, but he just doesn’t seem interested in wanting to talk. He’s always more interested in something else (e.g. toys), and becomes ignorant.

    Any advice?

    1. Hi Tiarne!
      Thanks for reaching out. Lean into the things he is motivated for. If toys are what he is interested in, require him to ask for them. Follow the instructions in #7 and #8 when he wants his toy. Guide and coach him in the words to say, clearly say them yourself using expressive mouth movements, and require him to make an effort. When he says anything that resembles a string of words, reward him by giving him the toy you already know he’s asking for. Require a little more each time.

      Remember you’re not looking for him to seem interested. That’s not the point. Training is your goal. Being intentional to teach speech development takes time and persistence! Read back through the post and make sure you’re doing all these things regularly every day!

      Blessings,
      Shelley

  7. What would you recommend for a child who’s parents, and day care provider speak one language, and grandmother speaks another?

    1. Hi Sharon!

      What a great question!

      This presents numerous opportunities for even greater neural pathway development. My recommendation would be to focus the majority of your efforts with regards to these techniques on the language the child is spoken to more than half the time, while still encouraging Grandma to speak to the child in a second language. I’m sure you understand the importance of saturation for learning a second language, so it’s a great idea to not limit the amount the second language is spoken while utilizing these techniques with the primary language!

      Blessings,
      Shelley

    2. Hello
      I have a two year old little girl that can say just a couple of words. (Dada, go, bye bye, hello, okay) and she “jabbers” all the time. But shes not really mocking me or attempting to say new words. I talk to her and try to teach words all the time and I feel for the most part she is listening but won’t really attempt to repeat. Any suggestions?

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