While toddlers may develop their language skills gradually, the process of learning to talk actually starts at birth. Right from the beginning, your baby will start to listen, recognise your speech and make their own noises and sounds.
As they reach 6-12 months old, they should begin to understand the use of certain phrases or respond to the sound of their name. They may even say their first word before they reach the age of 1.
There are several suggested language development milestones that children should reach between the ages of 1 to 4. However, these are only guidelines and some children can learn at different speeds.
As a parent, it can be hard to know the best ways to encourage your toddler to talk. As childcare experts, these are our top tips on how to help a toddler start talking.
Get talking whenever possible
One of the best ways to teach your toddler to talk is to speak to them as much as possible. Research by Stanford psychologists found that frequently talking to your toddler can assist the language learning process and accelerate vocabulary growth.
While they may not talk back to you at first, you can narrate or explain your daily activities. For example, you can name fruits and vegetables at the supermarket as you put them in the trolley. Or when out on a walk, you can read out the names of street signs to them.
It’s important to use simple and short sentences where possible to make it easier for your toddler to digest. As they develop, you can then start to add new words and make sentences longer.
Read with your child
Another important way to encourage language development is by reading with them every day. Reading to your toddler will help them develop their vocabulary, language comprehension and set them up to read on their own.
A 2016 study found that parents who read 1 picture book to their children every day exposed them to 1.4 million more words than children who weren’t read to by kindergarten.
The best books for toddler language development are ones with eye-catching pictures to attract their attention and help them learn vocabulary. Books with textures and touch-and-feel pages are also great for teaching descriptive language.
Play with them
If you make learning to talk fun for your toddler, they will be more likely to show interest and engage. By reciting nursery rhymes with repetition and actions, they will be more likely to remember the vocabulary.
Picture matching games are also a great way of teaching your children different vocabulary and sounds. This could involve asking your toddler to match the animal sound to the right picture.
You could also play a game of “Simon Says” where you call out simple commands and demonstrate them yourself. You can then encourage your toddler to replicate these commands and understand the connection between the words and actions.
Encourage them to socialise with other children
Another key aspect of learning to talk is communicating with other children and people outside their family. In their first year and a half, toddlers may begin to engage in ‘parallel play’ where they play alongside other children.
From 19 months, they will start to show more of an inclination to connect with other children around them. At Little Angels, we encourage our children to play and interact in small groups and through our extra-curricular activities.
Learning to communicate with new people is an important skill for toddlers to learn before they start school and will help to build their confidence.
Give them praise and motivation
When teaching your toddler to talk, it’s also important to praise them when they achieve new steps, such as learning a new word. Research suggests that children are more likely to repeat behaviours that earn praise.
Therefore, giving them praise for their achievements will also encourage them to keep learning and talking. You can also give them the motivation to take part in activities such as reading by making it fun and setting an example.
By reading to your child from a young age, they will be more likely to want to to read and will have a big impact on their language development.
Development Program at Little Angels
At Little Angels, we encourage our children to develop their language skills by following the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework.
We also have an exciting program of extracurricular activities to nourish and stimulate their minds such as sign language and French language classes.