How to Know if Your Toddler's Speech Is Developing Properly

Few developmental milestones please parents more than hearing their child’s first words -- or perhaps an utterance that resembles their toddler’s first words! Shortly after this happy event, parents coax their little one to repeat the word multiple times, and monitor their toddler’s speech development, comparing her progress to other toddlers. Although variability abounds in how and when toddlers reach speech and language milestones, it is natural for parents to experience anxiety related to whether their toddler’s speech is developing properly.

Your 1- to 2-Year-Old Toddler

It’s not unusual for your 1- to 2-year-old toddler to learn a new word every week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your young toddler may use two-word sentences and ask two-word questions. Your toddler may achieve other milestones during this developmental period such as identifying familiar objects, retrieving objects from another room and relishing simple nursery rhymes and stories with glee. Nurture your toddler’s emerging skills by creating new opportunities to read, encouraging your toddler to point to pictures and talking about routine activities as performed.

Your 2- to 3-Year-Old Toddler

Failing to be understood by others represents a source of frustration for toddlers and their parents. Happily, your 2- to 3-year-old toddler is typically understood by family and friends, reports the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 146. Parents may observe a rapid increase in their toddler’s speech, exemplified by joining three or more words together to form sentences and questions. Parents can help by asking open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response, and continuing to read nursery rhymes and sing songs that expose your toddler to language sounds.

Your 3-Year-Old Toddler

Most 3-year-old toddlers have a lot to talk about, and fortunately, most talk using sentences that contain four or more words, and use speech that can be understood by virtually everyone. Your 3-year-old eagerly joins you to sing favorite songs and may complete a nursery rhyme correctly. Promote your toddler’s rapidly expanding communication skills by engaging her in dramatic play activities that permit your toddler to role-play parts from a favorite story 5. Ask your child to talk about what the character does, says and feels.

Red Flags

For toddlers 18 to 24 months of age, parents can monitor for red flags that suggest a delay in speech development. If your child exhibits problems comprehending simple requests, cannot imitate sounds and uses gestures rather than vocalizations by 18 months, address these concerns with your toddler’s pediatrician, recommends KidsHealth. If your toddler is older than 2, red flags to discuss with a pediatrician include an inability to follow directions, produce spontaneous speech and be understood by others. Early assessment, identification and treatment decrease the possibility that a delay will impede learning and academic success.