toddler talking

Tips to Get Your Toddler Talking

Babies and toddlers go through extremely rapid language development in their first two years. Children explore and learn all the silly sounds they can make (vocal play) and begin to grasp that sounds can have meaning. Children quickly understand how to make their wants and needs known, but there are several tips that parents can utilize to help support and encourage language development.

Tips to Get Your Toddler Talking:

  1. Communicative Temptation: Using communicative temptation principles, try setting up environments andGet Your Toddler Talking with These Tips situations to foster and encourage language use, specifically via verbal expression or gesturing. Holding desired objects or placing them out of a child’s reach encourages children to communicate with caregivers in order to make wants/needs known and met. Once children attempt to communicate, be it verbally or through gestures, praise the child and reward them with the desired object.
  2. Play: Follow children’s lead for play. Allow them to engage with you during activities, their added interest in play will often foster language acquisition more naturally.
  3. Model: When a child is acquiring expressive language, parents should be modeling their own speech for their child to imitate. Frequently labeling common objects – such as favorite foods, toys, and family member names – throughout the day, will encourage imitation.
  4. Create verbal rituals: Creating situations where a child comes to expect language can encourage his participation in rituals. For example, saying “hi” to each toy animal as you take it out of the box, or even singing the same song every night at bed time. Pausing during songs and allowing children to finish (e.g., “the wheels on the bus go ____”) can help support and increase language.
  5. Label: Repeatedly label the actions/objects a child desires throughout his day. For example, if a child demonstrates that he wants to be picked up through gesturing, while picking him up say “up” and encourage imitation.
  6. Narrate: Narrate activities that are going on around the child, to provide a language-rich environment. This may include listing off grocery items as parents put them in the cart, or explaining what the dog is doing (e.g., “oh, Mario is wagging his tail!). Parents may also describe their own activities (e.g., making lunch, going for a walk, etc.).
  7. Appropriate Complexity: Talk at or just above the child’s language level. Allowing children to hear language that is age-appropriate will encourage understanding and encoding. Using language that is too complex can cause confusion or misunderstandings in babies and toddlers.
  8. Gesture: Gesturing can be a great way to promote social development. Gestures are intentional communication, and parents can use gestures to encourage socialization and verbalization. Try pairing a wave with expressing “hi” or “bye!”
  9. Clarification of Speech: Focus on what toddler is saying not how clearly she is saying it. Allow children to make verbal attempts, even if caregivers can only understand 50-75% of what is being said. Parents can model appropriate speech clarity, but children should be praised for making attempts at this age – remember is it still cute when they are little!
  10. Auditory Bombardment: When targeting vocabulary, create a “language sandwich” for your children. This includes identifying a new word, using it in a sentence, then repeating the word again! For example, “dog, the dog is barking, dog!” Bombarding children with novel words allows them more exposure to new words, and it also helps with carryover and usage.

The tips above represent ideas that can help encourage language development. Should parents have specific questions about their child’s language acquisition, a licensed speech-language pathologist can help!

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The Development of Gestures in Communication




Communication encompasses so much more than just talking. Our body language, intonation, gestures, and facial expressions say just as much as our words. The importance of gesturing has long been underestimated in the field of speech-language pathology. However, gestures are one of the very first forms of communication, and recent research has suggested that gestures may pave the way for future developments in language. Iverson and Goldin-Meadow (2005) found that children who first produced a gesture + word combination were also first in producing two-word combinations.

A gesture is defined as an action, or movement of part of the body, especially of the hands or the head, used with the intention to communicate an idea or meaning. While gestures are typically made with our hands, they can also include facial expressions, such as lip smacking, to indicate eating and body movements, such as arching of the back, to indicate refusal. Here are some general guidelines for gesture development from an infancy to two years of age.

9-12 Months

  • Requests objects by pointing or reaching with hand
  • Gains attention by making physical contact (i.e. grabbing leg, pulling on adult)
  • Reaches to be picked up
  • Performs an action to indicate wanting something to happen again (i.e. banging on the table after you bang on the table)
  • Anticipates and initiates social games like peek-a-boo by covering face with a blanket
  • Waves bye
  • Imitates clapping
  • Shows and gives objects to adults

12-15 Months

  • Gives objects to adult to request help
  • Demonstrates functional use of objects. For example, brushes hair, stirs with a spoon etc…
  • Hugs stuffed animals
  • Claps to show excitement
  • Dances to music

15-18 Months

  • Shakes head “no”
  • Points to get you to do something. For example, points to a door to indicate “open” or “out”
  • Smacks lips to indicate “food”
  • Points to object upon request, (i.e. “Show me your tummy!”)
  • Points to objects for adults to name or label
  • Indicates all done by putting hands up or shaking hands

18-24 Months

  • Makes funny faces, silly sounds, sticks out tongue to gain attention
  • Representational gestures emerge. These include shrugging shoulders, putting hands up to indicate, “What’s that?” or “Where did it go?”
  • Blows kisses
  • Slaps palm for “high five”
  • Clarifies verbal messages by pointing to objects they attempt to verbally label

Gestures are crucial for language learning. They help children to communicate their wants and needs months before they are able to do so verbally. Children learn communication through listening, observing, and imitating the world around them. The best way you can support your child’s language development is by engaging with them each and every day. Play, talk, gesture, sing, laugh, and enjoy your time together!

Click here to view our speech and language milestone infographic!

Talk to Me! 6 Ways to Promote Communication and Language

Having trouble getting your child to communicate?  The following 6 strategies will help facilitate communication and language in your baby or toddler. The main premise for these is two fold – first tempt, then wait. These strategies take some patience, both from you and your child, but most always stimulate communication, whether it be gestures, signs, words, or simple phrases. Try some of these “communication temptations” at home – and feel free to be creative!

Communication Temptations:

  1. Food: Grab one of your child’s favorite snacks and offer him a few pieces, then wait for your child to indicate he wants more. At the most basic level of communication, you can model a simple gesture, such as a point, to indicate “more.” If your child is already pointing, model a sign, word, or even simple phrase for your child to imitate. If he still grunts or points, do a hand-over-hand sign for “more.” Be sure to give him his reward right away so he makes a communication connection! Read more

How To Introduce 2 Words Into a Sentence Using Baby Sign Language | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a pediatric speech language pathologist explains effective ways of introducing a second sign into a sentence when teaching your baby sign language.

If you haven’t already seen the previous Webisode, you can view it here 

In this video you will learn:

  • How to use sign language to teach variety of other signs and gestures
  • How to incorporate 2 signs in one sentence
  • What is the best resource out there for sign language