Is your two-year-old babbling but not yet talking? In this podcast episode, I go into what language skills we expect at this age and three things you can do to help your child learn to talk.
In my work, I often encounter one of two situations.
Sometimes, I meet kids who are three or four and not yet talking. Often, the mom was already worried way before this. But everyone around her said, “Oh that’s okay, just wait and he’ll start talking before you know it.” Maybe she’ll hear a story about a kid who didn’t talk until he was four and is now very talkative. So the mom ends up feeling like she’s worried about nothing.
On the other hand, I also encounter moms who are worried because their two-year-old doesn’t know the ABCs or can’t name flashcards yet. Maybe they feel a lot of pressure because of what they see on the internet about what lessons their toddlers should be having.
That’s why in this episode, I’ll talk about what language skills most two-year-olds would have. And what to do if your two-year-old is babbling but not talking.
What should a two-year-old be able to say?
By the age of two, most kids should be able to say many words and use them correctly. I don’t want you to be obsessed with counting how many words your child is using.
What’s more important is that your child should be using words to interact with others, and not just reciting something by rote. By the age of two, toddlers are now able to put two words together. For example, they can say things like “more milk”.
It’s just as important to look at the nonverbal aspect of language. When your child sees a bird, points to it, looks at you, and says excitedly, “Bird!” – this is excellent!
Also, we want to see that your child is using a variety of words. Some would refer to people (mom, dad); everyday objects (ball, spoon); things she is interested in (animals or things she sees around her); and maybe a few adjectives and action words (cold, ouch, play, eat).
If a child has several words but they are all the same thing – for example, different types of vehicles, or different species of dinosaurs – and there are no other words in your child’s vocabulary, mention this to your pediatrician.
Remember this – child development is not a contest. I’ve seen how parents can feel pressured if their child doesn’t know the alphabet or isn’t counting to twenty by the age of two.
But the most important thing for your child to learn during this time is combining words, gestures, tone and facial expressions to be able to communicate with others.
Even something like taking turns in a conversation, knowing how loud or softly to speak in different situations – these are all things that kids are learning at this time. We often take these things for granted, but these are important lessons! They’re much more important than being able to recite the alphabet or count to ten by rote.
If by the age of two, your child does not use these two-word phrases or does not respond to simple questions like, “Where are your shoes?” – you should tell your doctor.
If at any time, you have concerns about your child’s language development, or if you are concerned about whether or not your child can hear well, you should tell your doctor too.
The earlier we help a child who has a language delay, the better it will be. We don’t want to “wait and see” when it comes to this. Sometimes, even if kids catch up later on, they will still need support when they are older.
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3 Ways to Help Your Toddler Learn to Talk
You don’t need to buy anything. You don’t need to spend on the latest toy that promises to help your child develop language skills. Instead, do these:
First, talk with your child.
Interact with her. I can’t stress this enough. There’s no substitute for you talking with your child, with her seeing your gestures and facial expressions. This is the single best thing you can do for his brain development.
When talking with babies, researchers also found that using motherese – a higher-pitched voice – catches their attention better. This is probably why many people instinctively talk with babies this way!
Then, pause and wait for your child to respond. When your child says something, even if it’s not clear, encourage it. Look at him. Look at where he is pointing. Harvard University calls this “serve and return interactions.” These interactions are extremely important for his developing brain.
Second, get down on the floor and play with your child.
Babies and young kids learn through play.
Now if you look at learning through play on the internet, it can get so complicated – with lots of instructions and things to prepare. But that’s not what this is all about. You don’t need to buy or prepare anything or search all over Pinterest for toddler learning activities.
Just get down to your child’s level, where you are face-to-face with each other. Then let your child be creative. If you go to discerningparenting.com/activities, you’ll get a week of language-boosting activities that you don’t need to spend time preparing for.
Third, read a book with your child.
No age is too early to start. You can start as early as when he is a baby. This does not mean teaching your child to read. The purpose is to interact with him. Let him feel safe and comforted as you cuddle him while you read.
Enjoy the experience of you making silly sounds, trying different voices, and making all sorts of facial expressions. Ditch the apps that promise to help babies and toddlers learn to talk. Many people believe that these apps help babies and toddlers be smarter and learn more words.
But research has shown that at this age, kids need actual human interaction for them to learn a language. Maybe some toddlers can repeat some of the words they hear from television or videos – but videos or apps won’t be able to help them use these words in a meaningful way, in real-life situations.
Want more strategies? Check out my book “Toddler Talking: Boost Your Child’s Language and Brain Development in Three Easy Steps”. You’ll find play activities and quick-win strategies you can implement without having to carve out a chunk of time in your day to “do lessons”.
I’d also love to hear how it went when you do any of these tips with your toddler. Send me a DM (go to @discerningparenting on Instagram) and let me know how it went! Let me know too if you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a coming episode.