All parents are excited for their child to talk, but may wonder when will it happen. All children develop at their own rate, but there are pediatric guidelines caregivers can follow to gauge if a child is developing typically. Let’s find out if your child is hitting age-appropriate milestones within language development.

Toddler Language Development 

At 18 months old your pediatrician may ask if your child is speaking 10-20 words. These can include sign language words, animal sounds, or approximate words such as “ba” for ball. By the age of 24 months, most typically developing toddlers will be speaking 50-75 words as well as creating phrases by combining two or more words. If your child isn’t hitting those marks that’s okay; take a deep breath. Pediatricians will tell you that receptive language is more important than expressive language when looking for concerning developmental delays. 

Early intervention is a free service available to children between the ages of birth to three years. You can contact your county’s early intervention center here. They will ask some questions and then set you up for a free evaluation to see if your child qualifies for services in the discussed area of development. 

What can you do at home?

Sometimes the wait to be seen by early intervention is over a month. In the mean time you can continue modeling speech at home to encourage language development. 

  • Narrate what you are doing and add descriptive words such as adjectives like: blue, big, cold and more.
  • Use Sign Language to allow your child a way to communicate without pressure. It’s funny how often you’ll see that once adults aren’t so pushy trying to get their child to talk, it comes right out. Imagine if you were constantly told to say this or that, but weren’t able to. When you sign to your child say the word out loud and when they sign to you, give them what they’re asking for, along with saying the word aloud. The more your child hears words and sees the value of communication, without being pressured, the sooner you’ll notice new words!
  • Point to pictures in a book and announce the word, “Cow”. Later ask them to point to the cow, and then another day try pointing to the cow yourself to ask what it is.
  • Repetition is important as well. Read books or sing songs that say the same phrase over and over, such as Old McDonald or Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, by Eric Carle. After saying them a lot, pause for two to three seconds to see if your child inputs a repetitive word. You can also do this in your play. Perhaps you are sending trucks down a ramp. Continue to say, “1, 2, 3, GO!” Eventually pause after three to see if your child says, “GO!”
  • Try a language development app created by Speech Therapists. Speech Blubs is an interactive app that over 4 million people have tried. Learn more about it below!

What about Screen Time?

I wondered the same thing when I saw an ad for Speech Blubs’ language development app. Our pediatrician said that active screen time for children over 18 months of age is now deemed acceptable by the American Academy of Pediatrics. He said about 20 minutes a day where the parent is engaged and discussing what is happening with the child is appropriate. On Speech Blubs’ website they also state, “Experts talk about PASSIVE (screen time that is physically and cognitively sedentary, like watching cartoons or music videos) vs. ACTIVE (cognitively, educationally, or physically engaging activities). Most agree that passive screen time doesn’t usually help with physical or emotional development, but that active smart screen time can.”

We Tried It Out and Approve!

I signed up my 20 month old son. The best part is that it started by asking me, the parent, questions about his development. It then said in what areas he was behind and suggested we reach out to a speech therapist. In addition, it gave the suggestion of using their app 3 times a day for 5-10 minutes. They base this off of his age and approximate attention span. I was already very impressed!

So, my son tried it. The app uses recorded children as role models speaking different words and sounds that you click on. It then gives the child a chance to say it back and puts a picture of your child (that you upload) as well as sounds and images to encourage a response. I love that there are other children for my son to see talking appropriately. During the pandemic many families have decided to keep their children home and hire a nanny. With play dates just now slowly coming back the second year of the Pandemic, children missed a lot of social interaction. I imagine, down the road, there will be studies done on the impact it made on early childhood development.

My Son Loves It!

My son really enjoys Speech Blubs and has learned how to use the app; it is amazing what children can do at such a young age. We use it two times a day for short 5-10 minute sessions. When we started using the app he used some sign language and only spoke two words. In addition to the app and Early Intervention Speech Therapy, he is now able to communicate with me using more words, thus avoiding frustration! If you would like to give it a go, here is a 20% off coupon for a yearly membership!

If you are looking to expand your child’s language development from infancy, try baby sign language. Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny has an online class for parents and caregivers. You’ll learn over 75 signs upon completion of the course. In addition, I personally highly recommend O’Leary Speech Therapy located in the greater Boston area!

About The Author

Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and works for Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny as the eLearning Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her son, going for walks with her husband and dog, and discovering local wineries in New England.