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Activities to Increase Speech Skills in Toddlers

by Stacey Chaloux, studioD

Many toddlers experience an explosion in their speech skills sometime after their second birthday, according to KidsHealth.org. During this time, your tot's vocabulary will become much larger, and he will combini words into short sentences. However, not all parents will see that happen in their toddler, and if you do not understand at least half of what your 2-year-old says or 75% of your 3-year-old's words, you may want to have him evaluated by a pediatrician or a speech pathologist. In the meantime, there are some things you can do at home to help boost that speech development.


Reading with your child every day will help her increase her language comprehension, but you can also use reading time to practice her speech skills. Choose books that allow her to interact by pointing to certain pictures or repeat certain phrases. Predictable books like "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" by Bill Martin, Jr. are a great way to get her to read along with you. Once she has heard a story a few times, pause when you come to the end of a line and allow her to fill in the blank. Ask her questions as you read like "Can you find the dog? What does the dog say?"

Stretch His Speech

If your toddler says just a few single words, you can help him begin to combine words by modeling slightly longer sentences. For example, when he says "car," you can follow up by saying, "It's a blue car." Find ways to stretch the short sentences he says into longer ones that use some of the same words. Once he begins saying "more milk" you can turn that into "I'll put more milk in your cup." Hearing ways to use the words he knows in longer sentences will help him begin to combine more words himself.

Lots of Repetition

Toddlers need to hear words many times before they will begin saying them, so it is important to include repetition into your playtime. Singing songs together is one way to repeat words several times. For example, if you sing "Old McDonald Had a Farm," your child will hear many of the same words used again and again and may even begin to join you on the "E-I-E-I-O" chorus. Incorporate repetition into your pretend play by putting all of the stuffed animals to bed and saying "Goodnight, bear. Goodnight, dog. Goodnight, monkey" with each one. Your toddler will follow your lead and may begin saying it with you. As you build a tower, repeat the same phrase with each block you stack, such as "Put it on top." Then yell out a big "CRASH!" as you knock them down. Repeat this several times and let her join you in the "crash."

Keep Up the Conversation

As tiring as it may be, it is important for you to talk to your toddler as much as possible during the day. While you make breakfast, talk about what you are doing. As you drive to the store, point out things you see along the way. While grocery shopping, talk about all the different foods you see. Ask your child questions as you play together and acknowledge his responses even if you don't quite understand them; you want to encourage him to keep trying. Try to go beyond yes or no questions, and ask him things about what he is doing because that will interest him the most. For example, while he is playing with his cars, ask him, "Where is that car going?" And if he's not sure how to answer, give him a couple of options such as "Is it going to the store, or is it going to Grandma's house?"

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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