When will my toddler start talking?
Encourage your child’s language skills by talking to them and helping them to make sounds and words.
At a glance
Toddlers learn language by copying, so talk to them as much as you can
Read and sing to your toddler to help them develop their skills
Repeat the sounds they make and encourage them to repeat what you say back
Praise their successes and don’t focus on the errors, to build their confidence
Nothing feels as good as the moment your little one first says mummy or daddy. But before your toddler can speak they need to learn about language. They do this from the day they are born, by listening to you and imitating the sounds you make. However, some toddlers may be late talkers. Try not to worry about speech delay, just have as much one-to-one talk with them as possible. Make it fun, and you’ll soon see results.
Delayed speech in toddlers
If your child isn’t talking at all by the age of two, or you notice speech problems in older toddlers, it is recommended you see a healthcare professional. A skilled therapist may suggest speech therapy for toddlers if they find them struggling to understand words and form sentences, or failing to make themselves understood when speaking. Healthcare professionals can check if your child has speech delay – it’s not entirely uncommon, even Einstein didn’t start talking till he was three. In very rare cases they may be a developmental reason, such as Specific Language Impairment, but it can be treated by a recommended speech therapist.
Helping your child learn language
To help your toddler develop their language skills, try some of these simple tips.
- Talk to your toddler about the things you see and do as you go about your daily routine, naming different foods at the supermarket for example, or the colour of different cars you walk past
- Read to your toddler and talk to them about the story and the pictures
- Singing and acting out nursery rhymes make words fun for little ones
- Expand on what your toddler says to help them build up their vocabulary. For example, if your toddler says “Box”, you might say, “Yes, it’s a big box.”
And then help your toddler make the sounds themselves.
- Get down to your toddler’s level while you talk to them – they learn how to pronounce words and make new sounds by watching the movement of your lips
- Repeat the sounds they make to you and encourage them to make them back
- Ask them to make choices, such as “Would you like a banana or an apple?”
- If your toddler says a word incorrectly, say it back to them correctly without focusing on the error
The more you encourage your toddler, the more confident they’ll get. So turn off the TV or the iPad, and other noisy background distractions and spend time talking to each other. If you’re ever concerned about your toddler’s speech development, speak to your GP, public health nurse or health visitor.