May 23, 2024 - 5 min read
May 23, 2024

6 Tips to Get Kids Talking from a Pediatric Speech Pathologist

So your sweet baby is now… no longer a baby! They’re toddling around, touching, pulling, pointing. You’ve finally started stitching together some solid chunks of sleep, survived the blur of the first year, and suddenly people are asking, “are they talking??” Let the google searches on “how to get kids talking” (and stressing) begin! 

When should they start talking? How many words should they know? Are they saying enough??? 

Toddler Speech Expectations 

As a mom of three and a speech pathologist, I still myself worry about my own children’s development! Let me give you a basic layout of the toddler years language expectations, and some really simple and effective techniques to get kids talking!

  • Around a year old most children begin to say their first word or two. 
  • By 15 months we would expect children to be saying 4-6 words. 
  • Around 18 months there is a significant burst of language with the expectations increasing to 20-50, and by 2 years most kids know anywhere from 200 to 400 words! 
  • Also around 2 years toddlers are able to begin putting two words together. So instead of one word labels, you’ll begin to hear things like “Mommy up” or “addy go”. 
  • By 3 years of age we would expect 3-4 words put together into a phrase. 

As parents, if we feel our child is behind these milestones or needs more support, it may be tempting to buy flashcards, set up special activities, or even purchase expensive toys that will help get the words flowing. 

Trust me when I tell you direct interaction and play are all you need! 

get kids talking

Here are 6 tips to get kids talking

Whether you think your child should be talking more, or you just want to build a strong foundation for language development, here are a few ways you can use your day-to-day interactions to encourage language output:

1. Teach, don’t quiz!

It can be tempting to hold up objects and ask, “what is it?”, but if you only quiz and never teach, your student will have a hard time! Instead, label items and toys around your child. Talk about what they are doing, what you are doing; pointing to common items and labeling them as you talk with your child.

2. Follow their attention

It is crucial at this age to follow the attention of your toddler! Talk about, label, and describe what they are focused on at that moment. Research shows that trying to draw their attention away from their current task to an adult-directed activity resulted in less language learned after the activity. This means if your child is playing with a tissue on the floor… talk about that tissue! Make it a game… peekaboo, hide and seek, throw it up and try to catch it… labeling actions, locations, and having lots of fun!

3. Expansion

Maybe your child is saying a few words here and there, but not yet elaborating or putting any words together. Try this tip: after your child says a single word, repeat it back, but add something to it. So if they say “Car!” you might say something like, “Yes! That blue car is driving fast!”. You’re validating their communication attempt, and also presenting them with an opportunity to pick up on additional words and language components in a low-stakes scenario.

4. Recast

Perhaps your child is putting some words together, but you’re hearing some grammatical errors. You don’t need to specifically correct all their errors. Many of them are likely age appropriate. Try this technique: repeat back the child’s utterance, but with the correct grammar. For example, if your child says, “Him go home”, you might respond, “Yes, he is going home now”. No need to draw attention to the error, yet use the opportunity to model the correct structure. Repeated modeling of the correct grammatical structure may provide the necessary input to lead to correct productions in the future.

5. Sabotage

At times, when a child doesn’t see a need to communicate, they won’t! If they can meet their wants and needs without talking (especially if it is particularly challenging for them) they will by-pass language. If they want a specific toy, they get it off the shelf. 


A way to create opportunities for interaction and communication is to purposefully create situations which require a child to interact. This could be as simple as putting out their yogurt without a spoon. This creates the opportunity for them to ask for a spoon. They may simply point, say, “spoon”, or maybe even bang the table! This is your opportunity to model how they could request what they need. 

This could look very differently depending on their age and language ability, but the bottom line is you are there to offer that example for them to imitate and quickly get them what they need to enjoy their yogurt! (Some other examples include putting a toy out of reach, putting preferred items in a closed box, not opening the food item when first handing it to them). We never want to reach the level of frustration. Just a small moment of pause with the opportunity to imitate a model.

6. Use songs!

Using music to teach language can be useful in activating different regions of the brain, as well as building interest and allowing for natural repetition. Have you ever noticed a child may only speak in 1 or 2 word phrases, but can sing 4-5 words together? Music and rhythm is a wonderful tool for language expansion. 


There are so many ways songs can be used to build language skills! One simple way is to begin singing a favorite song, “Old MacDonald had a farm…”. If the child is very familiar with the song and attempts to sing along, you can choose a point in the song to pause, to see if they will fill in the blank! For example “…and on that farm he had a _____”. 


Another way to use music is to use a familiar tune, but change the words to describe what you are doing at that moment. After repeating it several times don’t be surprised if your child starts to sing along, and maybe even learn a new phrase! Using the tune of, Where is thumpkin” you could sing while getting shoes on, “Where are my shoes, where are my shoes, where are they? Where are they? Are they on the sheeeelf… Are they in the biiin, let’s go see. Let’s go see.”

If you’re ever unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out to a speech pathologist – we’re here to help! Whether it’s a simple question or an evaluation it never hurts to check. Early intervention yields the best results!

get kids talking

For another blog post by Lauren Anderson, MS CCC-SLP, read, “How to Talk to A Baby: 5 Tips From a Pediatric Speech Pathologist”


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Lauren Anderson


Hi! Im Lauren, I’m a speech language pathologist and mother to three young kids. I love connecting with kids through play and child-led exploration. I’ve been working closely with families since starting my business 8 years ago. I’m passionate about coaching parents (they really are the best teachers) and seeing those “aha!” moments as a child learns to share their thoughts with the world.



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