Talking toddlers

It warmed my heart to hear my two year old interrupt my bed time story reading to tell me the story of “The Three Little Pliggets”. She also loves Winnie-The-Pooh, and Piglet.  My son’s favourite animal was an “onctopus” (initially said only as “piss” to our horror). A friend’s daughter can’t contain her excitement when given a box of farties as a treat. 

So often I hear parents correcting their toddler’s cute speech. I want to stop and tell them to sit back and enjoy hearing the sweet little voices and funny little words, all too soon it stops by itself. 

Normal speech development

Learning a language takes some time and making certain sounds and sound combinations is difficult for little tongues. Initially there are single words, then joined words and then little sentences – with sentence order that can make it very hard not to burst out laughing from the cuteness. You’ll also hear that everyone “go-ed” to the beach and “he brang it with”, and of course there are mispronunciations and struggling with some letter sounds.  It is all quite normal and will come right on its own by about age three and a half to 4. 

There is a big age range for saying first words and speaking meaningfully, first words typically starting by 12-18 months or so and speech intelligible to others by about 3 or 4 or thereabouts. Children are also able to understand what is being said to them before they can express those same things verbally. Talking to your child and reading to them regularly does help. If something worries you though, you can see an audiologist to have your child’s hearing tested or see your paediatrician if you are concerned about general development. A speech therapist would be able to assist with assessments and problems that require correcting.

Babies don’t have to talk like Teletubbies.
Talking to babies doesn’t mean you need to use special baby talk, they can learn to say “train” without saying “choo-choo”. Just speaking normally is best, rather than making odd Teletubby sounds. Children often leave out some sounds at the start or end of words, or even in the middle or can’t quite manage sounds like “sm” and “r”, and this also comes right during the pre-primary years, however, if they do sound like a telletubby or they drool a lot when speaking or struggle to chew, some professional help may be needed – and sooner is better than later. 

When should you worry?

There is nothing cuter than a little voice with a lisp, and many children lisp. Most will grow out of it, but if this is still present at around age four and a half, then it is best to see a speech therapist. The longer it is left after this, the more entrenched it can become and the longer it may take to treat. 

Toddlers thoughts seem to race along faster than their mouth can form the words, but this is also a normal part of speech development and is referred to as “non fluency” rather than stuttering. If your child has a noticeable stutter, there is no need to wait, if it worries you, see a professional, even if others are suggesting you wait a little longer. 

What are the heart melting or funny speech errors your toddler has made?

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