Tips to encourage toddlers to talk

Constantly talking at your child won’t help them talk any faster. Being around language, being spoken to clearly, hearing you speak to others are all great ways to help your toddler learning to talk. Remember though, that we all do it at different speeds – some babies are great chatters from early on, others take a while longer to get it – and all of that is normal.

So, there is no need to panic. Here are some tips that can encourage your toddler to talk:

  1. Have two-way communication from birth

Right from the beginning it is great to talk to your baby to let them know what’s happening and what you are doing etc., but it is also important to pay attention to their non-verbal signals and listen to their sounds and cries. As they grow and continue to develop there will be many times where you will be unsure of what your baby is trying to tell you. I encourage you to wait a little before you react. When you ask, give them time to take your question in and listen again. Try and make every attempt to understand what they might be communicating to you. It won’t always be clear, but it will get easier as they grow.

  1. Use your authentic voice and first person

A lot of parenting experts suggest that it is better to talk to your baby in your regular, authentic voice (but a little slower) as this reminds us that we are talking to a whole person. It models for babies the natural tone and language we want them to adopt.  The more they hear language spoken properly, the sooner they will learn and try speaking it.  It is also better to speak to them in the first person rather than “Mummy loves Johnny.” Your child knows you are mummy so why speak differently to a baby or toddler who is learning our language than we would to an older child or adult? Children will understand and use pronouns earlier when they are modelled.

  1. Talk about real, meaningful things

In other words, instead of teaching words, use them.  So rather than pointing to something and saying what it is, use the words in the context of playing. For example; “I see you rolled the red ball across the floor, “rather than holding up a ball and pointing to it saying “ball.”

  1. Read books and tell stories

Reading books responsively means following our child’s interest rather than what we think they should read. Let your baby or toddler read how they want, in whatever order and however they want. Trust your child’s readiness, allowing them to lead can encourage a love of books. And children who love books, love and use language. There are also things called Social Stories. These are stories we make up about our children or the things they are interested in. Children love to hear stories that they feature in. They don’t have to be long or well written, just something of interest can really get them chatting.

  1. Slow down

Try and slow down the way we speak. We rush around and speak quickly – it must be hard for children learning to take it in. Try to be conscious of the speed of our speech and slow it down around them.

  1. Relax and be patient

If you are worried about your child’s language development they might pick up on that. Parent worries can be felt by young children and don’t create the ideal climate for making those big developmental strides. Talking takes courage.  Relax, be patient and trust your child’s inborn timetable. Sometimes language skills can emerge almost overnight for some children, so try to be patient. If your child does seem delayed in their ability to comprehend language, or doesn’t seem typical in some areas of development, it’s a good idea to get an assessment done.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.