9 Tips to Get Your Child Talking
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9 Tips to Get Your Toddler Talking: It’s All About Creating Opportunities

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Do you have a child who has a few words mastered BUT he will only say them every once in a while? Do you hear a lot of whining? He might need more motivation along with extra opportunities throughout the day. Here are some tips and tricks to get your toddler talking:


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1. The Expectant Pause:

This is great to practice when you are playing a repetitive game or song, but it can be used any time throughout the day when it’s time to say a word that your tot knows.


Example: After a few repetitions of saying, “Ready, Set, Go!” before putting your little one upside down or doing a pillow squish on her belly, you can say “Ready, Set . . .” Wait a few seconds with an excited, expectant look on your face to see if she will say “Go!” If she doesn’t say anything, then you can say it right before you do the action. When she does start to say it, then she won’t have to wait so long. So. . . talking = she gets the fun thing sooner!

 Creating opportunities for children to talk for speech therapy at home

2. Stopping Short During a Familiar Song:

This idea is just a different way of trying the Expectant Pause. Some songs that work well for this include

  • “Ring Around the Rosies” – Stop before “down” to see if your little one will say it.
  • “Old McDonald” – Go ahead and sing the fist couple of sounds and then see if your child will say that animal sound if you use the Expectant Pause.

RELATED: Laying the Foundation for Talking

3. Don’t Anticipate His Every Need:

It feels good when you know exactly what your child wants, but think about it this way – Why would he need talk when you anticipate all his needs? Even if you know what he wants/needs, try to act confused to get him to communicate with you. If he continues to whine and point or lead you by the hand, you can say, “Oh, you want the _____, say _____”

4. Sabotage:

Using sabatoge in speech therapy to get your toddler to talk

Okay, I know the word ‘sabotage’ sounds terrible (but that’s what we call it in the ‘biz’). It is really just setting up some opportunities around the house so you know your child will need to communicate to get your help.


Examples: Put a preferred toy within view but out of reach, so your child will have to ask you for help. OR put him in the bath but “forget” to put in the bath toys until he asks. Maybe start to eat one of his favorite snacks in front of him and don’t share until he uses some form of communication.

5. Give Repeated Opportunities at Meals/Snacks:

Instead of just giving her a bowl full of her favorite snack, only give her a little bit of the snack. Tell her, “When you want more, say ‘more.’” (Or any other word you think she’ll say). Yes, she might get a little frustrated but if she has the ability to say the word, this is a time you can wait her out a little bit. And if this is too hard, you can have her use sign language for “more” 


6. Get Silly:

Sometimes reluctant talkers need practice making sounds with their mouth – fun sounds are a great place to start.


Example: If you have animal toys or books, see if your child will make animal sounds with you. OR try playing cars and making sounds like, “vrrooom,” “beep beep” and “crash.”

Make snake sounds, “Ssssss” and scare each other!

7. Give Out Pieces of a Toy One-by-One:

When you and your child are playing with a toy that has multiple pieces to it (puzzles, stacking cups/blocks, Mr. Potato Head, car ramp), try being “in control” of the pieces. Instead of just putting them out on the floor, you’ll want to have the pieces out of your child’s reach so he has an opportunity to request the piece instead of just grabbing the next one. If you want a detailed example of this technique, check out my article on Using Mr. Potato Head to Get Your Child to Talk (Read the Early Talker section).

8. Encourage Any Attempt to Vocalize:

It doesn’t have to sound perfect or be the exact right word. If she says, “O” for “go” or says “car” instead of “truck.” Congratulate her! That’s a huge step in learning to talk. Sometimes I’ll say, “Good try! It’s like a car – it’s called a truck!”


9. Turn off the T.V or Tablet (or at least limit it):

Sure, there are educational programs out there and those are better than non-educational programs, BUT no program on television is going to increase language development the way that interacting with a parent/caregiver will. That’s because educational programs and apps teach concepts, but they don’t actually teach how to talk or give practice.

Research is now showing that over-use of devices can lead to delays in communication development, attention span, and school performance. Check out this article and video from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA).


Note: These tips are intended for children who are either still technically meeting their milestones, but are a bit on the late side (sometimes referred to as a Late Talker) or who are already receiving speech therapy and would like to supplement what the therapist is doing. (Remember that an SLP is only working with your child for a short time each week – YOU are the one with your child 99% of the time). If you have any concerns about your child’s development PLEASE talk to your child’s pediatrician and/or your local Early Intervention Program.

RELATED: Should You Call Early Intervention?


Want a printable version of this article? Click Here.


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    • Margaret

      Hi Susan,
      A printable version of these tips is a great idea! I can make a simple, printable version for download that could be given to caregivers. What profession are you in? I can email it to the address you left when it is done. Though, it might be a couple of weeks – the blog to-do list is long these days 🙂

    • Lydia Elizabeth Ravnikar

      Hello, I am a grandma to a beautiful very smart 20-month-old boy. He doesn’t say any words except to sort of grunt and point. I never had to worry about this with my children. They started saying a few words way before this. My grandson doesn’t even do the typical babbling ‘m’ or ‘d’ sounds. His mother is frantic and worried that he’ll never talk. The grandfather and father are seemingly unconcerned and know that he will eventually talk. But I have the same private worries as my daughter. What can I do to help? I feel that this mandatory quarantine of young toddlers not playing with each other so that they can hear and imitate is unnecessary and cruel. Lydia

  • Amanda

    I’m also looking for a printable version if possible. I’m a developmental special with Early intervention and would love to share this with caregivers

  • Bonnie Peterson

    Could I also have a printable copy of this. I work in a preschool with a language therapist and have a grandson who is 21 months old and struggling with vocabulary…. thank you

  • Cassie

    Hi! Loved this article. I am a Developmental Specialist with Early Intervention and these are just the things I coach parents on when beginning to work with a child with a mild expressive language delay. Would it be possible to get a printable copy to leave with parents, to reinforce what we talk about in our visits? Thank you!!

  • Penelope Smith

    My nephew has been having some issues with speaking lately. It is good to know that it would be smart to try asking him to repeat things at mealtime. It does seem like that could at least help communicate if he was hungry.

  • Kristofer Van Wagner

    My sister shared that her son has been having some problems with speaking as of late. But my sister is also planning to send him to a daycare center. I will advise my sister to look for a center that knows how to deal with delayed speech problems so that he will be encouraged to communicate.

  • Megan Alder

    My husband and I have been thinking about taking our 2-year-old son to pediatric therapy due to we’ve noticed that his talking has not evolved. I really like it when you said “Sabotage” is a good way to make your child having to communicate with you. I will definitely put your advice in practice while we find a well-qualified pediatric.

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