How to Teach a Toddler to Talk: 3 Tips

As a speech therapist, there are 3 main things that I keep in mind whenever I’m trying to teach a child something new—especially speech. Those three things to remember include simplification, motivation, and repetition.

Stage 1: Simplification

Let’s say you’re spending time blowing bubbles with the child.

First, I’m thinking, “How am I going to simplify the words around this activity?” Some of the words that might come to mind:

  • Bubbles
  • Pop
  • Blow
  • Again
  • More
  • Please

Let’s break this down a little more.

If the child that I’m working with is not talking at all yet, maybe “bubbles” is too big for them to start with.

The [pl] in please and [bl] in blow may be too complicated. Consonant blends like those can be hard.

The simplest words that I could think of is more and pop. That’s what I’m going to focus on having the child say.

So, now for the activity. I’m going to start blowing, building the bubbles and enthusiastically saying, “Ooh! Ooh! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” Remember to always use signs with new talkers or late talkers, too.

Stage 2: Motivation

I’m going to get excited about the bubbles! I’ll say, “Ooh! More—tell me, tell me, tell me!” So, it’s all in the excitement and motivation here.

Remember that while you’re getting them hyped up in this stage, you need to hold on to the bubbles. One of the biggest mistakes I see parents and teachers do an activity with a child is let them have the item immediately. They need to practice the word first.

Stage 3: Repetition

“But how many times, Kayla, should we repeat a word?”

As many times as we can, of course. Typically, developing toddlers have attention spans of about 3 to 6 minutes on their own. With an adult-guided activity and getting excited over this activity, their attention span should be longer. With special needs children that are behind, that attention span is often limited even more.

In a session, try for at least 5 times to practice that “more” word. Repeat the whole sequence with exactly the same way, including the excitement and hand motions associated with each word.

“More! Ooh! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” There’s lots of repetition there.
Try doing this bubble activity once in the morning and once in the afternoon. An additional session is an additional set of repetition. Try to do this every day. I hope that the child is able to learn more, maybe ooh, and maybe pop, too, pretty soon after.

Share on Social Media!

* indicates required
What best describes your role?