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Toddler Language Development

By Heidi Johnson, M.D.

Toddler smiling with mom.

As your toddler grows into childhood, language, speech and vocabulary blossoms with each passing day! Boys Town Pediatrics explains toddler language development and how parents can help expand communication skills.

Expanding Language Development

  • Form Simple Sentences. By age 2, a child will begin using simple phrases and will question and understand simple commands. He or she will have around 50 words stored in his or her vocabulary and may start forming two or three words together into sentences. Teach short and simple sentences to your child and don't forget to offer rewards with a smile and response! Your toddler's sentences may include:
    • Morning mommy!
    • I'm hungry, food please!
    • Go potty now!
    • Read book please!
    • Let's play!
    • Night-night daddy!
  • Interact and Play, Read, Talk and Sing. Interacting frequently helps with building language development. Playing, reading, talking and singing with your child are great tools parents can use to teach words and form sentences together. Read out loud and be expressive, sing songs together and broaden vocabulary and sentence flow by having playful conversations. Ask questions, announce when you are going to do something, imitate noises like animal and object sounds and practice counting.
  • Listen, Repeat and Expand. Listen to your child's sounds and repeat them back. These steps can encourage your child's speech and language development. As he or she grows older, start pointing out the words while reading. This is the next step in understanding letters and how words on a page form sounds.

When to Contact a Pediatrician

Every child has a different pace when developing language skills. Some may be a little ahead or behind. It is important to track and monitor your child's development. Your pediatrician will discuss your child's language development at his or her well check child visits.

Speech delays occur for many reasons, including hearing loss and developmental disorders. Depending on the circumstances, your pediatrician may refer your child to a hearing specialist (audiologist) or a speech-language pathologist. If you have any questions or concerns about your toddler's language development, contact your pediatrician.