Try not to compare against other parents
‘The thing I have heard parents worry about the most in the early days is speech,’ says dad of three, Stuart. ‘With stuff like walking or potty-training, even if you think they’re dragging behind, you know they will get there in the end. But with speech, I think people get scared that it’s the first sign something’s “wrong”.’
This fear is often compounded by the fact that, when it comes to a small child’s vocabulary range, there can be an enormous difference between one child and the next, even if they are the exact same age.
‘I’m in a WhatsApp group with some friends I met on an antenatal class, and one day a few of them were sharing videos of their little ones singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ says mum, Annette. ‘My son couldn’t even say “star” at that point, let alone sing a song, so I was immediately panicked that he didn’t know enough words and guilty that obviously I hadn’t been singing to him enough!’
As soon as parents feel their child might be developing slower than others’, guilt and worry is often the go-to feeling. But try not to panic. There’s no fixed age for toddlers to start talking - they’ll do it at their own pace. If you’re concerned and want to give some gentle encouragement, there are a few simple methods to try.
Ways to encourage your toddler to talk
Choose a few easy words and repeat them frequently - the more repetition the better
Pair words with action
Toddlers can be good at imitating speech when it’s paired with movement. For instance, saying ‘zoom’ while flying an aeroplane, so try and play games that incorporate words and action."
Focus on effort rather than output
When your toddler is trying to say something to you, focus on understanding what they’re trying to communicate, rather than how they are saying it. This should help them feel more confident about their speech."
With lots of positive reinforcement, the words will flow, even if it takes some time. Of course, if you are concerned that your child’s speech seems delayed, always consult a healthcare professional.
For more tips and advice on toddler milestones, read our piece on potty training tips, newly walking babies and how to help your little one safely explore.