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toddler with grandparent

Good news, you are about to enter an extremely fun phase of parenting. Here’s how to help your child when they’re ready to get chatty.

You made it through the baby months and now you’ve definitely got a toddler on your hands. You know that because they explore; like when they unlatched a cupboard’s child lock, emptying everything over your floor, and throwing a tantrum when you told them what to do (Murray, 2014). You’ll also know they’re a toddler because of another major developmental milestone – they’re talking.

Your child will probably be saying 25 recognisable words by their second birthday. If they’re not and are slow to follow simple instructions, you might want to chat with your health visitor for some reassurance. Otherwise, you can expect that between 18 and 24 months your child will:

  • understand 200 to 500 words

  • follow simple instructions like ‘show me your ears’

  • start to piece together short sentences – no long chats yet, just two or three words like ‘more milk’

  • use at least 50 words

  • sit listening to simple stories that have pictures

  • copy a lot of sounds and words (so be careful)

  • love chatting their way through games involving dolls, teddies, or miniature figures

  • use a few sounds in their words – often p, b, t, d, m and w - and often missing the ends off words.

(Talking Point, 2017)

Helping your toddler talk: How you can do your bit to bring them on…

  • Narrate your life: The dog you see on the way to the shops, the carrot you just dropped on the floor, nothing is too boring to chat through. It helps your toddler with their language skills.

  • Give them two or three options: Ask if they want to wear the trousers or the dungarees and help them identify the objects while they choose. Using objects and gestures helps them understand instructions and questions.

  • Use children’s books: Whether you’re reading to them properly or just pointing to stuff and naming it, this all helps them piece together the words. ‘Lift-the-flap’ books also help them to concentrate.

  • Push them further: If a child says ‘banana’, make it ‘more banana’ or ‘banana gone’ to repeat the word and expand what they’re saying. They’ll start working out how to form short sentences.

  • Make sure they can see your face: When you talk, it helps if your child can see how you make all of the different movements with your lips.

  • Don’t correct them: Instead, when they get it wrong just say the whole word back to them in the right way. They’ll get there.

  • Let them tell you in whatever way they can: If they need to use actions and take time, that’s fine. When they’re not understood, frustration and toddler tantrums often follow so let them manage in whichever way they need. Your child can also learn about taking turns by you giving them time to respond. (NHS Choices 2017; Talking Point 2017)

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Murray L. (2014) The psychology of babies. London: Dorling Kindersley. [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2017) Help your baby learn to talk. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Talking Point. 6-12 months. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

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