How to encourage your toddler to talk
My daughter could talk for England, she even talks in her sleep! She started talking pretty fast, whereas my son took a little longer to start talking.
Every child develops at a different rate, and it’s easy to worry about when your toddler should be talking.
If you’re really worried about their progress, talk to your GP and get a referral to a speech therapist.
I had to do this with my son in the end because when he did start talking he had a stutter (or bumpy words as we called them) He still suffers with this now but it isn’t half as bad as it used to be.
For most children, all that’s required is a little encouragement in effective ways to start to repeat words and form sentences – and here are five simple things you can do to gently encourage them:
1. Slow down and talk through everyday tasks with them
Make a routine which includes time which is sacrosanct to give them one on one attention. This can involve something you do every day – like bed time or bath time. Talk your toddler through what you’re doing as you do it. Talk slowly about how the water feels warm in a bath, the toys you’re using, why people wash, how you’re going to shampoo their hair. At bed time, talk about how their milk will help them sleep, how comfortable their cot or bed feels, how their blanket will keep them warm. Doing this slowly is important so they can understand you. Don’t bombard your toddler with questions and put them on the spot, let them talk when they’re ready.
2. Get down on the floor and make eye contact
A toddler may well be distracted by having to look up at you all of the time. Help them out and get down to their level. Don’t make them make prolonged eye contact with you – a brief moment is fine as some children prefer that. Then, talk to them and remain facing them as you do.
3. Be quiet for a while, and let your child take the lead
Even if your youngster isn’t talking, they’re communicating with you. Their body language is telling you things you may miss if you concentrate only on verbal communication. Be seen to be listening to that. Let them show you the toys they are interested in and how they want to play. If your toddler is looking at a plant in the garden, don’t try to take their attention to something else. Work with that. Talk about the plant – what it looks like, how it grows.
4. Interpret your toddler’s actions and sounds
Try to work out what your child is trying to communicate. Do they want you to look at something? Do they want to play with a different toy? How you respond is important – you need to start in areas your child understands and expand on them slightly. If he or she knows and uses certain words, use them. Move gently on to areas they might understand with a little help. If your child is using two-word phrases, use three-word phrases. If you use words or phrases your child doesn’t understand, their attention will be lost. Imitate your child’s actions and commentate on them. Become a narrator. Expand on their words slightly, and ask a question. If he or she asks you a question, respond.
5. Give your child chance to speak during daily routines and in play
Tempt your youngster to ask for toys or food by putting them away so they will ask for them. Provide some obstacles – put a favourite to in a clear plastic box with a lid on top, so your child can see it but cannot reach it themselves. Change your routine – ‘forget’ a bath, for example, and wait for your child to point it out.
None of this should replace speech and language therapy for children with developmental issues, but it can help children who are shy or have other siblings who speak for them!