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How to Get a Toddler to Start Talking

How to Get a Toddler to Start Talking

Your child’s vocabulary starts to significantly expand during toddlerhood (1 to 3 years old). But, what if they’re not yet talking at this stage? Here are some tips to get a toddler to start talking.

Speech delay vs. language delay

Before we discuss how to encourage toddlers to talk, let’s first define speech and language delay.

Speech delay is “late-talking.” For instance, your baby understands you when you talk to them, but finds it hard to produce speech. They may say a word or two to express themselves, but the words are often hard to understand.

On the other hand, language delay is a problem within the entire system of taking and receiving information. Toddlers with language delay may speak two words clearly but struggle with stringing those words together.

Toddler Development Milestones: 1-3 years old

The signs of speech or language delay

If your toddler doesn’t respond to sound, it’s best to bring them to a doctor right away. Likewise, set an appointment with your pediatrician if you observe that by:

12 months: your baby is not using commonly shown gestures such as waving goodbye or saying things like “dada” or “baba.”

18 months: your child still prefers gestures over verbalizing, show difficulty in imitating sounds, only has about 3 understandable words with meaning, and can’t hold shared attention.

24 months: your toddler doesn’t produce words, has no two-word phrases, or cannot verbally communicate their immediate needs, repeat certain short phrases, or follow simple instructions.

Additionally, consult a doctor if you or the other caregivers cannot understand at least 50% of what your 2-year old says (at least 75% for 3-year-olds).

How to get a toddler to start talking

The doctor will be able to provide you with more detailed information about what’s causing your child’s speech or language delay. Common reasons include oral impairment and hearing problems.

If the doctor doesn’t find anything, then your baby might be a late-bloomer. After all, children develop at their own rate. Here are some ways to encourage toddlers to talk:

Start a conversation with them

What better way to encourage your toddler to talk than to start a conversation with them? Talk to them during bath time, while they’re playing, or when they are getting dressed. If you see them watching you as you do chores, explain to them what you’re doing: “I’m making pancakes. Do you like pancakes?”

Respond to what they are doing

If you see your toddler take an interest in something, talk to them about it. When you see them acting like they are driving a car, ask questions like, “where are you going?”

Give them time to reply

After talking, give your toddler some time to reply. Let them know that you’ll be listening when they are ready to speak.

Use simple instructions

Encourage understanding by using short and simple instructions. For example, ask your kids to “get their bag” or “close the door.”

Repeat the words you want them to learn

If you’re teaching them about “shoes,” repeatedly use it by saying things like “where are your shoes,” “do you have red shoes,” and “let’s put your shoes on.”

How To Stop A Child From Saying Bad Words

Teach them the names of their body parts

A common game to get a toddler to start talking is to teach them the names of their body parts. Ask them to point their ears, eyes, feet, and so on.

Add other words and gestures to what they’re saying

It’ll help a lot if you add other words to the words they can already verbalize. For example, if your toddler says “mama,” supplement it with sentences such as “here’s mama” or “mama love you” along with gestures like pointing at yourself then at your toddler.

Use symbolic sounds

Teach your toddler about sounds that mean something. Pretend to drop an object and say, “whoops!” or “uh oh.”

Group words together

Cut pictures of things they are familiar with and group them into categories like things to play with (toys), things we eat (food), or things we ride on (transportation).

Read them a book and sing songs

Finally, taking advantage of books, nursery rhymes, and children’s songs is a great way to encourage toddlers to talk.

Learn more about parenting a Toddler here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Delayed Speech or Language Development
Accessed November 23, 2020

Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
Accessed November 23, 2020

Talking and play: toddlers
Accessed November 23, 2020

Help your baby learn to talk
Accessed November 23, 2020

Communication and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old
Accessed November 23, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Dec 04, 2020
Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS