Helping Two-Year-Olds Talk


Helping Two-Year-Olds TalkThe toddler years are a time for language explosion, but not all children develop at the same pace making it difficult to know what is typical, advanced, or cause for concern. Comparing your own two-year old to other toddlers or siblings is tough to resist. As a speech-language pathologist, I know many parents who became concerned with their child’s speech and language development after witnessing other toddlers string advanced vocabulary into lengthy utterances. However, keeping typical milestones in mind may serve parents better than conducting peer comparisons. 

What is typical for children between the ages of two and three? According to American Speech and Hearing Association, most children will be able to:

  • Understand opposites, like go–stop, big–little, and up–down.
  • Follow two-part directions, like “Get the spoon and put it on the table.”
  • Understand new words quickly.
  • Have a word for almost everything.
  • Talk about things that are not in the room.
  • Use k, g, f, t, d, and n in words.
  • Use words like inon, and under.
  • Use two or three words to talk about and ask for things.
  • Be understood by people who know them.
  • Ask “Why?”
  • Put three words together to talk about things. May repeat some words and sounds.

Whether your child is approaching, meeting or bypassing these milestones, there is always room for fostering more language growth.

Here are some tips to get your child’s language skills growing:

  • Talk about what you are doing. Talk about what he/she is doing.
  • Use short sentences. Model speech clearly.
  • Repeat what your child says, then expand on it. For example, if your child says “Red car!” follow it up with “Yes, that’s right! It is a red car. The red car is going fast. Now the red car is going up the hill. I wonder who is driving the red car.”
  • Read with your child. Encourage them to talk about the pictures and what they see on the pages.
  • Offer choices. Instead of saying, “Do you want a cracker?,” say “Do you want an apple or a cracker?” Your child will have the opportunity to respond with vocabulary other than “yes” or “no.”
  • Sing nursery rhymes.
  • Look at family photos and name the people. Talk about each person and what is happening in the photo.
  • Cut pictures out of magazines and glue them onto paper. Talk about the pictures.

Toddler brains are like little reservoirs waiting to be filled with new vocabulary and rules of language. However, each individual develops at their own pace. Some focus on gross motor skills, like climbing and jumping, while they put their speech on the back burner. Others might need a little more time. Some children will benefit from more specific language expression strategies, such as picture exchange or computer assisted communication. The early years are the best time to get your child help if you are concerned or just unsure.

If you would like to consult with someone regarding your child’s ability to communicate, don’t hesitate to reach out to a local speech-language pathologist. There are many in the Knoxville area.   

University of Tennessee Hearing & Speech Center schedules appointments year-round and can be reached at (865) 974-5451. You can view their website here.

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Hello! My name is Tricia and I am an associate professor in the Department of Audiology & Speech Pathology at University of Tennessee in Knoxville with specialties in stuttering and early childhood language. I am a mom to 3 girls, including 10 year old twins and a 14 year old, and a stepmom to 2 boys in their twenties. In 2013, my husband, Richard, and I relocated to Knoxville from Delaware. He grew up in NY and I in Pennsylvania. We love the small city feel of Knoxville, the proximity to the mountains and the fantastic community that surrounds us in our Farragut home. We spend our evenings and weekends on the sidelines cheering on our kids in various sporting events. My primary hobby is driving children from one place to another. I have a passion for anti-bullying movements, outdoor education and building support group networks around the world. I host a podcast entitled "Stutter Stories" to help share the voices of people who stutter internationally. I am a huge fan of thinking globally and acting locally. I am glad to be a part of Knoxville Moms and feel inspired when parents connect to take action for the well-being of each other and their children.


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