Count Your Toddler’s Words for Language Evaluation

I visited two homes this week of children 16-18 months because the parents were concerned that their child was only saying two words and might not be progressing on time in his language development. As I have said before, I get a lot of calls to check on kids’ language development around 15-18 months which is just about when they are supposed to launch into their “vocabulary explosion” where they can say several new words each week until they have about 50 words and are putting two words together like “big car” by the age of 2.

Once we started talking and I played with their child, I realized (and the parents did too) that their child was really saying many more words that mom or dad realized! Both kids had over 12 words that they were saying: “bye bye,” “tickle” and “Sponge Bob.” As they listened to their toddler, and focused in on hearing his words in their context, they realized he was saying far more than they thought. One little boy was having fun turning the light switch on and off. As I kept narrating what he was doing, he said, “li” for “light.” Parents have to be little investigators to figure out some of the words because toddlers don’t articulate perfectly. Listen for a similar vowel or beginning of the word and you will discover that they are naming more things than you realize.When you hear a word like “li,” respond with a wonderfully affirming, “YES! that is a light!” Always model the correct way to say the word. This will encourage your toddler to keep talking and keep trying to communicate with you.

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