As your child moves through the toddler years, the number of words they should be putting together generally follows their age. So, putting two words together by age two, and three words together by age three. If you feel like your child is stuck at the single word level, here are some fun ways that you can incorporate early phrase building into play and everyday communication:
Recasting! In speech therapy, a recast is when you take what a child has said, and repeat it back to them with either more detailed or more correct language. When working on expanding utterances, the best way to recast is to repeat what they say with an addition of one word. For example, if your child says “doggie!” you can respond with “big doggie!” to show them how to add more words. If your child says “dada home” you can say “dada IS home!” Most importantly, this provides a model without disrupting communication, so do not stop to try to make your child say your words. The more you model these phrases, the higher the chances they will start using them on their own!
Incorporate familiar learned phrases into play. For example, modeling “I did it!” when they accomplish something in play, saying “where are you?” in peekaboo or hiding games, and “ready, set, go!” for any games with big actions.
Model words other than nouns. Your child’s earliest words will be primarily nouns that they can use to label objects in their environment. To build phrases, they will need to build their vocabulary of words for actions, locations, and descriptions to pair with these nouns. For example, start modeling action words, such as run and jump. Use phrases such as “Daddy jumps” and “baby cries” to describe who is doing the actions. Use early location words, such as “in” and “out” and model how your child can say “blocks out” when requesting to take toys out of a bag or box.
Give choices with more than one-word options. For example, instead of saying “Do you want the blocks or the ball?” you can say, “Do you want the big blocks or the blue ball?” When your child is ready, they will start using both words when making their choice.
Always remember to keep it fun and exciting! For additional help or questions about speech and language development, please contact T.E.A.M. 4 Kids for a speech and language evaluation at our Peoria or Surprise location!
Karen Adkins, MS, CCC-SLP