Children talk by 2!

Children talk by 2!

Written by Melanie McCool - Parent Outreach Educator with the First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa

Children love to be social.  By a child's first birthday, they will communicate with others around them for the same reasons as adults do.  They communicate their needs and wants, to be social, for affection and out of frustration.  Depending on your child's age, this communication can look different.

About 93% of our communication happens without words; this is especially the case when very young children express themselves.  It is possible to communicate with others by using our body language, gestures and facial expressions.  This non-verbal communication is important because it can help us better understand the words that others around us are saying.  Yet, it can sometimes be hard for others to understand the messages we give with our body language.  It is frustrating when others confuse what we are trying to tell them.  Babies, toddlers and young children feel this frustration every day as they learn and try to communicate with the world around them. 

Expect your child's first words around their first birthday.  But, keep in mind they will not sound perfect.  Along with these words, they will be communicating with many gestures such as pointing, reaching, waving, etc.  The use of these gestures helps us understand the words they are trying to say.    Your child's first words will usually be items or people they see and words they hear every day.  This may be an animal sound such as "oof-oof" for dog, "mama", "dada", "ba" for ball or "wawa" for water.  It is important that they use the same sound each time for the object and that it sounds like the correct word.  Children learn to say their words by watching how you make sounds. They watch the way you move your mouth, lips and tongue to form the sounds in the word.  They will then try to copy that sound to form the word.  Over time and with lots of practice, they will learn to perfect the sounds of this new word.   

Strategy for Success - Be face-to-face and down at your child's level : Be face-to-face and down at your child's level when talking so that they can "read your lips".  This helps them discover how to make new sounds which will help them to use their words. 

Children need to hear language to use it.  Think about all the different tasks you do and routines you have during the day.  Exposing your child to new words happens naturally when you talk throughout your day.  Talk or sing about what you are doing or where you are going.  When dressing your child, highlight the key word.  For example, say: "sock on" or "one sock, two socks".  By using your words along with actions, your child understands what the words means.  Repeat the key word - socks - often throughout your daily routines.  When your child starts to use one or more words at a time, repeat what they have said and add a word.  For example: your child says "sock", you say "pull sock on".  Doing this will build your child's vocabulary and model how to put their words together to create short phrases.  

Strategy for Success - Repeat the key word and add another word: Repeat the key word often. When playing ball with your child, bring attention to the key word. For example, say: "ball" while holding the ball.  Then, add another word such as "big ball".  When you use actions or gestures along with your words, your child will better understand what the word means. Repeat this word often during your daily routines.

Children naturally want to communicate with the world around them.  If they are not, it might be because it is hard for them to do so.  Make sure that you give your child plenty of chances to talk, play and express their needs and wants each day.

 At the age of 18 months, your child should be saying 20 words and starting to put 2 words together.  

Strategy for Success - Offer choices and wait!Offering your child choices during the day will encourage them to use their words.  When offering choices or asking them a question, make sure that you give them enough time to answer using words or gestures.  Be patient as it can take up to 10 seconds for a child to answer you!  If your child is looking at you, chances are they are still thinking about what you have asked.  Try and avoid repeating your question and instead, wait a few more seconds for them to respond.  When we give children the space and time to talk, chances are they will try. 

By a child's 2nd birthday, they should be talking more and more every day or every week.  You can expect them to be putting 2-4 words together in short phrases and saying about 100-150 words.  They will have lots to say about what is going on around them but you may still have a hard time understanding them.  People outside your family should understand your 2 year old child about 50% to 60% of the time. Pay close attention to your child's non-verbal communication. Your child's eyes, body language and their gestures will help you understand what they are trying to say.  It can be frustrating for the both of you but keep trying, and guessing.  Ask your child to show you what they are talking about.  When you get it right, your child will let you know.   To help build your child's vocabulary and the clarity of their speech, repeat to them what they tried to say. When repeating, highlight the word that they had trouble with or forgot altogether. They will pay more attention to this word and over time will remember it and begin to use it.

Your child's speech and language learning happens all day, every day.  Sing, read and talk to your child throughout the day. The more they are exposed to language, the more they are likely to use it.  If you speak more than one language, we encourage you to speak to your child in your first language.  This is also called your mother-tongue and will be your strongest language.  You are likely to talk more in your mother-tongue, be more comfortable and know more words.  You will also use gestures specific to your language and culture. 

Children talk by the age of 2 years.  It is important that your child meet the speech and language milestones for their age.  Much of the language we learn in our lifetime happens in the first five years of life. 

At First Words, our Talk by 2 campaign highlights the importance that each child reach their communication milestones for their age.  About 1 in 10 children will experience a speech and/or language delay and will need therapy to meet their milestones.  Identifying any potential delays as soon as possible is important and will give your child the best chance to learn the communication skills necessary to make friends, interact with others and needed to succeed at school and in life.  

It's never too early to get help!  Visit the First Words website to check your child's speech and language milestones.  It is important to get help if your child is not meeting even one of the milestones listed for their age.  

First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa provides free services to families living in Ottawa.  We offer information, screening, assessment and speech and language therapy for children from birth through junior kindergarten.

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