Toddler reading a book at the library
Baby,  Toddler

How To Get Your Toddlers Talking (speech development)

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How to help toddlers talk

Have you taken your child to their routine well check doctor’s appointment and the doctor very casually askes “so how many words is your child saying now?” and you are instantly overcome with sheer panic because you just realized they don’t say very many words at all or any words for that matter?

Don’t want to be caught off guard again?

Keep your child on track developmentally with 9 different developmental checklists you can find in my free mom survival vault along with a ton more printables to help you survive mamahood.

Doctors will begin asking about your child’s language development at their 6-month appointment (mine did). I was completely thrown for a loop because I was not even thinking they should be talking that young.

It was kind of a funny story because my son’s doctor asked if he said any words at his 6-month appointment and I (with sheer panic) said no because I hadn’t heard him say anything other than his usual cooing and baby babble.

The very second the doctor left the room, my son, not only said one word but he accidentally said an entire sentence (no I’m not kidding). He said “I love you dada” and I about hit the floor in amazement.

But then he didn’t say another word for a very long time.

When should babies start talking?

Baby after bath time learning about speech

According to the article Your Baby’s First Words

“At 6 months, your baby begins babbling with different sounds. For example, your baby may say “ba-ba” or “da-da”.

These count as words right?

Your baby’s language skills will only go up from here.

If you want to make sure your child is on track and hitting all their language and developmental milestones take a look at the Free Mom Survival Vault where I have 9 different developmental checklists that will help guide you and your baby gracefully through their milestones.

What is speech delay?

According to Wikipedia speech delay “also known as alalia, refers to a delay in the development or use of the mechanisms that produce speech.”

Common reasons for delayed speech

1. Hearing problems

Hearing problems such as being deaf will cause speech delay but less drastic hearing problems include; ear infections or hearing loss to any degree even if minor could affect your child’s speech.

2. Physical defect

This could be anything from a tongue tie to any kind of disability your child might have ( down syndrome, autism, etc.).

But don’t worry mama, this doesn’t mean your child will never talk, it might just take longer to get them speaking.

3. Oral-Motor problems

Perhaps your child has a hard time moving the muscles they need for speech such as; lips, tongue or jaw. It’s best to talk with your pediatrician to discuss what your options are in how to get your toddler talking with these minor setbacks.

4. Ear infections

Ear infections occur when your eustachian tube gets blocked and as a result fluid builds in your middle ear.

Ear infections are extremely common in kids and it’s said that 3 out of 4 children will have at least one ear infection by the time they turn 3.

How many ear infections has your child had?

Symptoms of an ear infection include; ear pain, fever, drainage, lack of appetite, vomiting and grumpiness.

Babies and toddlers will often pull at their ears when they have ear discomfort. But pulling at their ears can also be a comfort thing for them so if your child is doing it don’t just assume it’s an ear infection.

Look for other signs mentioned above and take your child to the doctor for the best treatment options.

How to spot if your child has delayed speech

One way to spot if your child has any kind of speech delay is to compare them to other kids their age. Are they talking more, less or about the same?

I know what your thinking!

Why would we compare our children to others when every child develops at their own rate? I hear you mama, and normally I would not suggest comparing because in the long run it does no good.

But for this instance, it will just give you a frame of reference to know where your child is compared to other children their age.

It’s not always easy!

It can sometimes be difficult to know if your child has delayed speech. I thought that my son was going to have issues with it because he said that one sentence mentioned above but didn’t really say much else for a long time.

At his 1.5 year well check visit with his doctor, they reassured me that its completely common (especially in boys) for them to not say much until they are two years old.

Well, they were right! Once my son turned 2 he completly flourished and now says so many words I can’t keep track.

So don’t get too worried if they are not talking much because they may hit a speech growth spurt, so to speak.

Signs of toddler speech delay

1. Can not say simple words like “mama” by 12-15 months old.

2. Talk in short sentences by 3 years old.

3. Tells a simple story by 4-5 years old without a logical beginning, middle and end.

4. Struggles to follow simple commands or directions.

5. Is difficult to understand by close friends and family members.

Its common for the parents to know what their child is saying because they are usually saying it while pointing or reaching for something or simply because they know their child’s cues.

See if close friends and family can understand what your child is trying to say to get a better understanding of the words that could be understood from them.

Check out the Free Mom Survival Vault for 9 milestone checklist to help keep your child on track and hitting all of their developmental milestones.

What to do if you notice a lack in your child’s speech.

toddler talking on the phone for imaginative play

There are a ton of different things you could do that I will point out below. But the biggest thing is to let their pediatrician know because they will be able to give you the resources you may help in your area.

1. Early on speech intervention

Check with your child’s pediatrician, they will be able to give you resources offered in your state. In Michigan, they have a program called Early On where a specialist will come to your house for free and assess your child and give you resources based on their assessment.

2. Read

Reading has many benefits like helping build your child’s vocabulary, stimulates their imagination and helps improve their communication skills.

This is the easiest way to get your child talking more. Read as often as you can, the more words your baby hears you say the more likely they are to catch on.

Here is an article on how you can get your toddler interested in reading to help promote language development.

Sometimes kids are just bored with books and don’t want to read them. Here is a list of interactive books your baby and toddler will love reading.

3. Singing

I have yet to meet a child that does not love singing. Singing is basically a more fun way of talking with your child.

When you are singing with your child ask them questions about the song to try and spark a response from them. Making the questions fun in this way will better encourage your child to talk.

4. Narrate

Narrate everything you are doing. “mom is washing the dishes”, “mom is turning off the light”. Explain everything you are doing when your child is around to help to teach your toddler to talk.

5. Imitate

Imitating animal sounds will help get your child to learn what different letters sound like. This is a simple and fun way to get your child more acclimated with using individual letter sounds to make a word.

As an added bonus you are teaching your child what sound each animal makes, which they will totally love. As you are making each animal sound, ask your child what animal makes “make an animal sound” sound? You could also ask them “what sound does a dog make?” and let them answer.

6. Pointing the finger

Pointing the finger at someone is usually a bad thing, but here its important.

Point to things around your child, for example you could point to; a chair, the window, a toy. Point to anything your child could see and tell them what it is your point to.

Then you can point to something and see if they have an answer for what it is you are pointing to.

Remember, asking questions helps them learn so ask them questions often. Sometimes they wont answer or want to play but sometimes they will so keep encouraging it.

7. Puzzles

Doing simple puzzles with your child will help get their brain working in different ways.

Puzzles helps your child with many things like; problem solving, hand eye coordination and team work. But more importantly it is getting their brain working in many different ways to sort of strengthen their brain which in turn will help with their language skills.

8. Play dates

It’s important for your child to play with other children around their age. They are more likely to pick up language from them then they will anyone else.

Set up weekly play dates for your child with family, friends or get them involved in toddler reading hour at our local library.

9. Slow your roll

Try talking slower to your child to give their brain more time to take in what you are saying. This is the biggest reason screen time is not good for kids. The things on tv go so fast that it doesn’t give your child enough time to properly take in what they are seeing which can actually slow their development.

10. Rid them of distractions

Turn of any background noise or move toys out of the area so they have to focus only on what you are doing with them. This will help them focus better.

Think of it this way, you come home to a messy house and you can’t focus on anything else until the house is clean? It is pretty much the same concept with your child.

Overstimulation is not a good thing. Which leads me to talk about toddler toys. Does your child have toys all over the place? Here is an article on how you can rotate your toddler’s toys to help them focus and thrive developmentally.

11. Pretend play

Pretend play is a good way to get your toddlers brain moving, so to speak. Grab a pretend phone and call their favorite person, could be a grandparent or it could be an imaginative or fictional character like mickey mouse.

12. Give them time

Give your child time to respond to you. This will help them process their thoughts and what you are saying at their own pace.

13. Show patience

Your child will pick up on your emotions. If you are seeming frustrated they will in turn become frustrated and won’t want to keep going.

Be positive and show patience towards your child.

14. Don’t correct them

It’s ok to correct their mistakes on occasion but if you are correcting every mistake they make they will become frustrated and think they can never get it right, and stop.

15. Two way communication

This is so important in building your child’s self-esteem and help them feel loved. This in turn will give them the confidence to keep working towards learning to talk.

It’s so important to intervene as early as possible if your child does have a speech delay. The sooner you intervene and take the correct steps to improve their speech the easier it will be for them to catch up to their peers.

Related articles to child development

How you can encourage your toddler to talk


I am a loving wife of 6 years and mother of a beautiful, smart and ever growing two year old, whom I can talk about endlessly! My main goal in life, besides being the best mother and wife I can be, is to be a resource for mothers to help you live the best life you can. Do you ever feel like you have a bigger purpose in life then just living out your days? This is a constant feeling of mine and its my main motivation for starting this mom blog! We will talk about everything from; pregnancy, baby and toddler related. From their dirty diaper to keeping them entertained in a healthy way to finding ways to organize your home for easier cleanup so there can be less overwhelm and more time to doing the things you love!

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