Before your toddler speaks her first words, the first cues you will hear are the sounds she makes as a baby. Even if she has been making these sounds for a while now, reaching the talking milestone can take some time. Typically, she will start speaking between the first and third year of life.
As with any other milestone, she will also reach the talking milestone at her pace and comfort. Some toddlers start speaking as soon as they are past their first birthday while some others surprise their parents by talking closer to the third birthday. All of it is normal, and unless your toddler’s doctor suggests otherwise, you do not need to worry.
Of course as a parent, you want to see or rather hear her speak. Helping your toddler talk is a good way of quickening the talking process.
How To Teach Your Toddler To Talk?
Here are a few easy and fun ways in which you can encourage your toddler to talk:
1. Start With Signs:
The first step to get her to begin the talking journey is not words, but signs.
Even as she is young, it is important that you begin communicating with her using sign language.
The first few signs you use with her during babyhood are signs that will communicate basics like water, drink, milk, sleep, food, bye, hello, smile, good night and such. Using sign language to indicate needs will teach her that she needs to express herself and has to make you or others understand what she needs.
For each sign you use, make sure you connect it with the right word. When you show her how to use the sign for milk, say the word ‘milk’ out loud. Similarly, use the words ‘sleep’ ‘hello’ ‘good night’ ‘food’ ‘eat’ ‘water’ ‘drink’ and more each time you show her the sign.
Use the sign language consistently and also ensure you use the connecting words each time. Teach your partner and any other family member also to use the same with her. It will reinforce the words over and over in your toddler’s mind.
She may not be able to copy your signs to perfection, but she will still create her version of it. As long as you can understand that she is copying the sign and express what she needs, it is a good start.
2. Talk Talk And Talk More:
Talking constantly to your toddler is one of the most important ways in which you can encourage her to talk.
Your toddler will pick up her very first words from you! It is important that you constantly speak to her, even about very mundane everyday things. What you consider as regular and nothing special to talk about will open up a world of chatter for her.
You do not always have to filter what you are saying in front of her as you speak to her. Of course, you cannot use words that you know you don’t want her to speak (a toddler will almost always pick out those words first that are not age-appropriate, so be careful). If you are cooking while she is playing near you, you can carry on a live update about the steps you are using to cook. Say things like I am taking the tomato. I am cutting the tomato. The red tomato. I am cooking. When you feed her, use phrases like ‘nice food’ ‘baby is eating’ ‘mamma is eating’ ‘I am hungry’ and easy and simple phrases. Repeat them over and over again.
Once she gets the idea and can say a basic few words, take it a step further. For example, picture a scenario where you and your toddler are playing with a ball. She hands you the ball and calls it a ‘ball.’ When you hand the ball back to your toddler, add a few more descriptive words like ‘red ball’ or ‘big ball.’ You could also say phrases like ‘give me the ball’ or ‘thank you’ or ‘take’ or ‘give.’ Use phrases that are a little longer, comprising of three to five words. It will help your toddler connect the phrase to the action that you do.
3. Pronounce Each Word Correctly And Clearly:
While you are teaching toddlers to talk, it is important you make sure that she knows how to say the word that you teach her.
The baby talk sounds cute. On many occasions, to make it understandable to your toddler, you may end up speaking like one yourself. Make sure you speak all the words correctly and in a clear tone. While introducing a new word to your toddler, speak it a little slower, so that your toddler can hear it properly. Also, make sure you put the right amount of stress on the right syllable. Your toddler will not be able to pronounce words exactly the way you do, but as long as she is trying, it is fine.
Ask everyone at home to encourage regular speaking and not speak with a lisp or baby talk with your toddler. It will only confuse her more, as she will not be able to understand the correct way of saying something.
Each time you talk to her, make sure you make an effort to get down to her eye level. It will help her see your lip movements and understand the word and intonations better. If required, repeat the sentence or phrase a few times. Every time you introduce a new word, use it in a few different ways through the day. Lay more emphasis on that particular word each time you use it so that she can recognize it easily. The more she hears the same word or phrase, she will learn to remember it better and use it more.
4. Be Specific In Your Instructions:
Your toddler will learn better and faster if you make the instructions clear and even, every single time.
The way you talk to her will help her understand what you are trying to mean and how she is supposed to react.
Make sure you keep specific words for specific instructions only. For example, if you are using the word ‘no’ while talking to your toddler, make sure you maintain the same tone each time. The word ‘no’ should only mean that she is not supposed to do a certain activity or behave a certain way. You should not confuse her by using the word ‘no’ in a playful way, or say it while you are smiling. It will send out the wrong message to your toddler, and she will not be able to be sure of what the word ‘no’ means.
As your toddler hears the word ‘no’ in a specific context, she will learn that she needs to use it to refuse something, or to stop someone from doing something. When you keep the instructions clear, your toddler will also learn how to use that particular word in her sentences.
5. Start Reading Out Loud And Reduce Other Noise:
Reading out to your toddler has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of improving vocabulary and increasing interest in speaking.
If you have not started it yet, begin by getting some age-appropriate books for your toddler. You can pick out books that easy to hold and are not too heavy. It will help your toddler hold the book herself and will not hurt her in case she accidentally drops it on herself. Some books that will interest your toddler are ones that have big bright images in them. It will help your toddler stay interested and look forward to a reading ritual each day.
Schedule a time each day when you will read out to your toddler. It could be her bedtime, lunchtime, or play time during which you may also read out to her. It could also be any time in the evening as well. Just find the time and stick to a routine.
In the beginning, start rotating the books on a regular basis so that your toddler does not get bored. If you see your toddler feeling especially interested in a particular book, you can repeat it over and over again till she gets bored of it. Repeating the same book over and over again and reading out the same thing with the same words will help your toddler remember the words over a period. Once your toddler starts showing more interest, you can also take her out for trips to the bookstore, where you can spend time browsing through different books. It will not only make good use of her time, it will also instill a love of books from a very young age.
As you introduce reading to your toddler, reduce the amount of TV she watches. If you watch TV in her presence, try and reduce the amount of time you do so. If possible, set your programs to a recording mode so that you can always catch them later, without having to miss anything. Make sure there is no background noise in the house, like the sound from the TV (even if it is on low volume). Music or noise can distract your toddler, and she might not be able to hear you clearly. Keep reading time a sacred time for your toddler, when the sole focus has to be on the book, the reading and the words.
As you read out to her, use your finger to point out the words. You can slide your finger along the words as you read them out. If she seems interested, you can also hold her finger to the book and slide it along the words as you read them. When you reach an image or word that she is familiar with, take a little time to repeat it. Get excited over that word and show her that you recognize it. She will also most likely respond with a positive reaction or a knowing smile as she recognizes the word. If you can see a live example of that particular object around you, ask your toddler to point it out to you. For example, if you come across the word ‘chair’ in the book, ask her to point out the chair in the room to you. In case she seems confused between the book image and the real version, help her by first pointing out the word or image in the book and then pointing towards the real one in the room.
Once she develops the reading habit or the listening to you read habit, make sure you continue the practice and do not stop abruptly. Keep your voice soft yet loud enough for her to understand. Do not eat or drink anything while you are reading out to her, as it may change the tone or pronunciation of the word.
She will soon reach her talking milestone, and once she starts, she will awe you with the speed she picks up new words and phrases. Until then, keep practicing the steps we mention above and speak to her doctor if you have any concerns.
Subscribe to our mailing list and LIKE US on Facebook to stay updated on the latest parenting tips!