How to teach your toddler to talk


One of the greatest rewards of being a parent is watching your child grow. At the time of birth, your baby can coo, gurgle and cry. Some time at the end of their first year, they magically say their first ‘words’. Whether it’s ‘mama’ or ‘papa’ or ‘baba’, saying their first words is a major milestone in a child’s life.   

Language development is a key milestone for a child’s development. To be able to communicate, the child must be able to understand what others are saying, say words clearly and speak at the right speed. Language development at infant and toddler stages are the foundation blocks to literacy and learning.

If you are keen to help your toddler develop language skills, it is important to understand the developmental milestones of your child.

Language development from 0 to 6 months

Children start communication from birth. At birth, a baby can make cooing, gurgling, babbling sounds. They can cry and know how to turn their head to follow your voice.

Language development from 7 to 12 months

Babies at this age can recognise simple words like ‘No’. They start engaging with you by making sounds or gesturing when you talk to them.  Sometimes, they reply with sounds.  Babies have a modest vocabulary of 1 or 2 words, but they will not be able to vocalise it until about a year old.

Language development from 13 to 18 months

From 13 months onwards, babies will have an expanded vocabulary of 10 to 20 words. They start repeating words they hear and can understand simple commands like, ‘pick up your toys’ or ‘use your spoon’.


Language development from 19 to 36 months

After a year-and-a-half, children will have a vocabulary of over 250 words. They can say many of these words and will start talking to you. They describe things, ask questions, and can follow more detailed instructions.

How to teach your toddler to talk

Parents play an important role in helping their children develop. Your growing baby or toddler spends most of their time with you. How you support and encourage them are crucial for their growth and development.


Here are some things you can do to encourage your toddler to talk:


1. Read to your toddler

The love of books is a wonderful habit to inculcate in your child. Start reading to your child as early as possible. Reading to your child at an early age helps them develop a better vocabulary because they are exposed to new words. Recent studies show reading once a day to your child can translate to 1.4 million words in your child’s vocabulary.


Reading helps develop literacy skills as well. Refer to our article on print awareness in our blogs for some clever ways to teach your child to read.


2.Talk to your toddler

Your child learns to talk by imitating the sounds he or she hears. Talk to your child by speaking slowly and clearly. Avoid using baby words with your toddler. Use proper words.  After speaking, give them a chance to respond.


3. Respond to your child

When your child is trying to talk, listen to him or her. The more encouragement you give your child in talking, the more confident they become in using words to express themselves. If you pay attention to what your toddler is trying to say to you, you are also indirectly teaching them the importance of listening skills.


If they make a mistake pronouncing a word or words, gently correct them by saying the word clearly and slowly. Encourage them to say the words again and reward them if they get it right. A reward does not have to be a bribe of a toy or candy. Hugs and kisses are wonderful rewards children love so, try these instead!


4. Expand on their responses

Expanding on what your child is saying is a good way of showing them how to complete sentences. If your toddler says to you: ‘I like dog.’ Expand on their sentence by saying: ‘I like the dog’. The more you show your toddler how to use words properly, the faster they will pick up language skills.  Teach them to say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ as well.


5. Use your language

Teaching your toddler to talk does not have to be in English alone. If English is not your mother tongue, try using your language to talk to your child. Children can learn more than one language at a time so make it a habit to speak to them in your mother tongue.


Bilingual children have a better cognitive advantage because they are exposed to more words. Learning a second language requires listening skills and focus. Children who are bilingual tend to be better learners and are more successful academically.


6. Name things

Help your toddler develop a good vocabulary by pointing out and naming items to them. Breakfast is a good time to point out things like milk, cereal, coffee, bread, toast, jam, and other words. A trip to the supermarket can be a wonderful learning experience for your toddler if you name things to him or her and occasionally let them hold these things in their hands.


The more times you repeat the words, the more your toddler will learn the word. Remember, that a child needs a vocabulary to be able to speak confidently.


7. Give them choices

Give your child the ability to make his or her own choices. Giving them choices is the start of critical thinking and expression. Don’t just insist they eat what you put on their plates for dinner. Put several types of food on their plates and let them tell you what they would prefer to eat.

My toddler is not talking. What should I do?

toddler is not talking

Every child is unique. Some children develop faster. Others may take a little longer to get there. 


Here are some signs you can look out for:

  • Your toddler is not talking by the age of 2
  • Your toddler is having trouble following instructions
  • Your toddler is having trouble making eye contact
  • Your toddler has a very limited vocabulary for their age
  • Your toddler is struggling to put simple sentences together

If you are concerned, speak to your paediatrician. Your doctor will monitor your child’s developmental milestones and is the most qualified person to advise you. Do not be tempted to ask Dr Google.

Hearing your baby’s first words is precious. Being able to converse with them is another level of excitement that every parent looks forward to. We wish all our parents the very best on their journey of discovery with their little ones!

Make bedtime stories fun by reading with them by letting them choose their favourite books and playing reading games with them. Games can include reading together, and looking for words and


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