All toddlers learn to talk at their own speed, and many who start later than their peers catch up well as they grow.
Hearing your baby say his or her first words is a moment in time you will likely never forget. However, not all children are eager to communicate at the same age as their peers. If your child isn’t speaking words just yet, you might be concerned something is wrong. The good news is that most of the time, children who take a little longer to talk than usual, often catch up later on.
What is the ‘normal’ age for speech development?
Your baby’s babble will start forming into words around the age of 12 months. Around 18 months your toddler should be able to say about 50 words already. However, it’s important to remember that every child develops at a different rate.
Here’s what you can do to get your little one to talk more:
To get a child to talk, you have to talk
Keep a running commentary going during the normal day-to-day activities you and your child engage in. Comment on things that are happening in your child’s environment. Describe the colours and shapes of things and objects around her as well as the different tasks that you are performing.
Encourage a love of reading
Select picture and pop-up books for toddlers. Take time to point out different objects in the pictures and give simple commentary on and explanations about what your child is seeing. Also, invest in books with simple-to-follow stories and catchy rhymes. Read the books often, as repetition is key to learning.
Put on some music
Children are naturally drawn to music and will pay attention to simple songs. Sing, play a musical instrument, or use sing-along CDs. Include hand-clapping and finger-play activities such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and Itsy Bitsy Spider. Music helps children acquire the rhythm of the spoken language. Pleasant jingles and repetitive lyrics are natural memory tools that help a child pick up new words and concepts.
Speak clearly and slowly
Use simple words and short sentences. Communicating in this manner makes it easier for your toddler to understand you and to copy your words and speech patterns.
Keep the communication going
When your toddler speaks to you, reply in some way, even if you don’t understand what she is saying. Give your child your full attention, keep eye contact, listen and reply – and then give her the opportunity to speak again. Letting your child have the floor will encourage his self-expression and accelerate his language skills.
Putting labels on everyday objects helps a child recognise written language, and to make associations between words and objects. Put labels on toys, clothes, eating utensils, your mailbox, furniture, and more. Reinforce the words by repeating them and then asking your toddler to say them too.