Talk with Toddlers

In Blog, Early Language by Julie

Earlier this month I delivered my first online workshop: Talk with Toddlers. This session was aimed at parents and carers of children under 3 years old, to provide information about typical language development and how to support these skills.

The feedback from parents was positive and they expressed that the tips provided were practical and useful. There was also opportunity for parents to ask questions at the end, and although this wasn’t the same as all being physically in the same room, it was still a valuable networking opportunity.

At the beginning of the talk I discussed language development using the pyramid below. This is a useful way to describe the different skills we use within communication and how they develop alongside each other. The base of the pyramid is attention and listening, and these are foundation skills for language. A child needs to be able to attend to what is happening in order to understand what is going on.


We all know that children love to learn through play and it’s another foundation step in learning within the communication process. The pyramid shape, also reflects that children need to develop understanding of language before they are able to use the words they know. Just like if you’ve ever tried to learn a new language, you may feel more comfortable with hearing and understanding some simple words and sentences, before you would feel confident to ask for something in a shop to a fluent speaker.

Children also need to hear words lots of times in different contexts to help them to understand the meaning. Children typically begin to use their first words by 12-18months, and by the time they are two years old we would expect they would be using at least 50 words and beginning to join 2 words together e.g. more milk, bye daddy.

Speech sounds are at the top of the pyramid as children need time to practice using the sounds within words before they are able to use them all correctly and some sounds develop later than others. (I will be writing more about this in another post soon).

At the side of the pyramid, the two arrows represent the interaction between adult and child which supports the development of skills at all stages.

Worried parents of 2 year olds often contact me as their child is not using many words and they want to know how best to support them. This is a useful time for early intervention, to identify any possible difficulties and give the child the best possible chance to catch up.

Some parents (and professionals) may say ‘just wait and see’, but early intervention can make all the difference. It is likely that some 2 year olds will catch up without intervention, but at 2 years old it can be very difficult to identify which ones will and who might need some additional support.

If you’re worried about your child’s language, trust your instinct. You know your child best and early intervention is so important. It’s always worth speaking to a Speech and Language Therapist to check your concerns and get some tips to support your child. Some children will catch up anyway, but early advice could make a huge difference to the children that may not have caught up on their own. The longer you wait, the more catching up a child may need to do.

Some tips to support early language development:

  • Comment on things that your child is looking at or interested in, using simple language. Use words you think they might say if they were able to e.g. ‘ball’, ‘more milk’, ‘car stuck’, ‘shoes on’, ‘big bear’
  • Offer choices – show your child 2 items and say what they are as you look at each one e.g. ‘banana - apple’, ‘car - ball’. When your child indicates what they want, reinforce the word of the item they chose, ‘banana. You want banana’. They may indicate their choice through looking, pointing or vocalising. It does not matter at this stage if they don’t use a word. You can model the word so they hear it in context, and they may then use it another time.
  • Follow their lead in play and copy what they do. This helps to show them that what they do causes a reaction from adults and also shows them that we are interested in what they are doing. Following the child’s lead also provides opportunity for modelling language with something they are interested in and helps them to learn words that are important to them and the things they enjoy.

These are just a few ideas to support the development of child language. I offer free 20 minute consultation sessions to discuss parental concerns and advice regarding next steps. If you’d like to arrange a chat please get in touch via email

I also plan to run another online session to deliver Talk with Toddlers again, get in touch if you are interested in this, or sign up to my newsletter here to find out about new dates coming soon