8 Simple Ways to Support Toddler Language Development (2023)

If you’re looking for simple ways to encourage toddler language development, you’re in luck!

This post outlines 8 easy ways to support receptive and expressive language skills.

Even better, these strategies are easy to incorporate into playtime and daily routines.

So get ready to help your little one blossom into a confident communicator!

If you are new to my blog, my name is Kayla and I have been working with babies and toddlers in early intervention for many years and these are some of my favorite tips!

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1.Make Singing Part of Your Day

One fun and easy way to support language development is to sing with your toddler.

Singing nursery rhymes, songs from children’s shows, or just plain old favorite songs are all great ways to help boost vocabulary and expressive language.

Not only does it support speech and language development, but singing together is a great way to build a connection and share some special bonding.

2.Use All Types of Words With Your Child

Another way to support language development is to use a variety of words with your child.

Talk about what you’re doing as you’re doing it.

For instance, if you’re cooking dinner say “I’m chopping up these vegetables” or “I’m stirring this soup.”

Not only does this help build vocabulary, but it also gives them a way to be a part of what you are doing.

There are so many opportunities for your little one to learn throughout the day when we are mindful.

Don’t shy away from using descriptive words as they are just as important!

I love to target descriptive words when reading books with my toddler as well.

For example, if we’re reading a book about dogs I might say “The dog is brown and has a curly tail.”

This not only helps with speech skills but it also helps with vocabulary and general knowledge.

3.Use Gestures When Speaking, Not Just Words

Another way to support language skills is to use gestures along with words.

This can be especially helpful for toddlers who are still learning to speak.

Toddlers have a very short attention span so this can help with listening and following directions which are also known as receptive language development.

By using gestures, you are providing another way for them to imitate you.

Gestures are oftentimes easier for kiddos to imitate so if they learn the gesture they can use it to communicate before the word comes in.

4.Don’t Skip Animal Sounds!

We oftentimes get so excited for those first words that we sometimes forget the importance of sounds!

Sounds are usually easier for your child to imitate than words and they are motivating because they are usually a bit silly.

If your child seems to be imitating play actions and gestures well then it is time to start working on sounds.

Some examples of sounds that you can start with include:

  • Silly Sounds (make them up as you go!)
  • Animal Sounds
  • Environmental Sounds

You can model these for your child during daily routines, playtime, or while reading books.

5.Children Learn New Words Through Books

One of my favorite ways to encourage language development is through books.

Books are perfect for supporting both receptive and expressive language skills.

You will want to start off with short simple board books to start with.

At first, you may only want to focus on talking about what they see in pictures because most children are very busy at that age and may not want to sit and hear a full story.

Give this a try if you want to make storytime a bit more interactive.

It is also EXCELLENT if your child wants to read the same book over and over again.

When they do this they get lots of repetitive practice with the words and will pick them up in no time!

6.Provide Opportunities for Your Toddler to Communicate

Do you know your child so well that you know what they want most of the time even if they can’t say the words?

As parents, we know our little ones so well that we can sometimes predict their needs.

This can be a great thing…but it can also sometimes cause us to not give them the opportunity to communicate.

Instead of just getting your child crackers because you know they are probably hungry, give them the opportunity to communicate.

Simply ask them “What do you want?”

Then watch for their cues.

Can they point, gesture, or vocalize to indicate what they want?

This counts as communication and you need to support your child wherever they are at.

Once you have figured out what they want basing on the clues they gave you, then model the words and give your child what they wanted.

You can watch this short clip if you need an example.

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7.Get Those First Words Using Repetition

One of the most important things for a child’s language development is repetition!

They need to hear words over and over again in order to pick up new speech sounds and words.

Using target words can be a great way to get that repetition into your day.

For example, during your child’s next meal, I want you to say the food they are eating at least 3 times!

Here is how this looks:

  1. Offer a choice and label it
  2. Lable it again once they have picked what they have wanted
  3. Label again as you give your child the food

You can see a video example of this here.

8.Utilize the Power of the Pause

Pausing is at the top of my list when it comes to SIMPLE things you can do as a parent to encourage language development.

I love to start playing with pauses while singing familiar songs or reading your child’s favorite books.

If you have sung a song 93849404 times…then there is a chance that your little one might be able to fill in the blank with a word because they know it so well.

This is what it could look like:

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout

Down came the rain and…PAUSE…

Wait just a bit and see if your child attempts to fill in the blank.

At first, they may only fill in with a vocalization, but give it some time and it may turn into an actual word!

Here is an example using it with songs and objects!

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Want more ideas and strategies to try?

Encouraging language development for toddlers can be easy when you use simple strategies that are interactive and fun.

By reading stories, providing opportunities to communicate, and using repetition, you can help your child learn new words while developing their speech sounds.

If you would like more ideas like this make sure to check out my 1 MInute Communication Idea Cards or get all of my parenting resources when you sign up to my group for mindful parents of babies and toddlers!

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Grab your FREE Milestone Guide HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you promote toddler language development?

There are many things parents can do to support toddler language development.

Some simple strategies include reading stories, providing opportunities to communicate, and using repetition.

Parents can also get creative with pauses while singing familiar songs or reading their child’s favorite books.

What are the benefits of supporting toddler language development?

The benefits of supporting toddler language development are many.

Some include improved communication, increased vocabulary, and better speech clarity.

All of which contribute to a child’s overall language development.

How does music affect language development?

Music can be a great way to support language development because of the natural repetitiveness that occurs in children’s songs and fingerplays.

Singing can be built into almost any routine so it can be a great tool for parents trying to support language development.

Who should I contact if I have concerns about my child’s speech?

If you have concerns about language delays then it is best to reach out to your state’s early intervention program so that you have a screening or evaluation completed to assess your child’s development.

How do you improve a child’s speaking skills?

As your child gains new words they may be a bit hard to understand at first which is normal.

You can improve speech clarity by repeating what your child says and modeling for them the correct way of saying the word.

We can also get practice by reading stories and singing songs that have lots of repetition.

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Kayla ONeill

Kayla O’Neill has a master’s degree in education as well as a bachelor’s degree in special education with an emphasis in early childhood education. She has been working as a developmental therapist with babies and toddlers in early intervention since 2012. She is also a mom with two young children.

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