How To Teach Toddlers To Say Their Name (And Talk): Everything You Need To Know

From the moment they’re born, your baby will make lots of different sounds – cooing, gurgling, grunting, giggling, and of course, crying. And, by around the age of 9 to 12 months, your little one typically will speak their very first word. 

Whether that first word is a common one, such as “dada”, “mama”, or something else a little more exotic, this is a memorable milestone and certainly an exciting time for you and your family. However, as your child starts to get older, you might ponder how their language skills compare to their peers. This is entirely natural and normal, so don’t be alarmed if you’re constantly wondering how your child’s speaking ability matches up against other children their age.

At this juncture, it’s essential to point out that children speaking development varies from child to child. Even siblings learn to speak at different speeds, so don’t worry if your second child isn’t talking as quickly as his or her brother or sister did. That being said, it is essential to understand the various language milestones as your child get older, as this will allow your more easily recognise developmental issues early on.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss the most common language milestones, in addition to furnishing you with a handful of activities to help your toddler’s start talking and improve their speaking ability.

Language Development & Milestones: 0 to 36 Months

Ages 0 – 6 Months

Babies between the ages of birth and six months will typically be making babbling and cooing sounds. Even during the very earliest stages of their life, your baby has the ability to understand that you’re speaking (although, of course, not what you’re saying). This can be seen when they turn their eyes or head in the direction the speech is emanating from. As each month passes by, their understanding of language and communication will grow, making it easier for them to follow directions, respond to their name, and, potentially even utter their very first word.

Ages 7 – 12 Months

By the ages of 7 to 12 months, babies typically understand simple words like “yes” and “no”. It’s likely they’ll use gestures to communicate, and may have a vocabulary of between one and four words; however, in some cases, their first proper word may not arrive until after 12 months of age.

Ages 13 – 18 months

Between the ages of 13 to 18 months, a child’s vocabulary is typically somewhere around 10 to 20 words, although it can be larger than this. After approximately one year of age, toddler’s have the ability to repeat words you say, so be careful what you’re saying! Additionally, they’re also able to understand basic commands, such as “pick up the book”, and will generally have the ability to verbalise requests.

Ages 19 to 36 Months

Between the ages of one and a half and two years of age, a child’s vocabulary will have expanded rapidly and will include anywhere between 50 and 100 words – possibly even more. Toddler’s at this age will likely be able to name things, such as objects around them and body parts, as well as people family to them. Furthermore, they may also start to speak in small phrases or sentences. Once they reach the ages of two and three, a toddler’s vocally will have broadened and will typically contain over 250 words. They’ll have the ability to ask questions and followed more detailed instructions and directions. 

Please note: The above age ranges are general guidelines; children learn to talk at different speeds, so if your child isn’t as advanced as you thin they ought to be, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a developmental issue. If you’re ever concerned, speak to a medical or educational professional

How Can You Teach Your Toddler To Say Their Name and Talk?

We’ll split this section into two separate segments; one regarding the process of teaching your toddler how to say their name and another regarding teaching them how to talk in a more general sense.

Teaching Toddlers How To Say Their Name

There is no right or wrong age to teach your toddler how to say their name, although it is, of course, ideal if they’re already saying a few words. Always begin with their first name, then once they’re able to say that, move on to his or her middle names, and eventually your surname. Here are some fun activities to make learning their name enjoyable! 

#1 – Clap The Syllables

To help your toddler master the pronunciation of their full name or to help them get to grips with a longer first name, clap the syllables as you say them. Young toddlers are able to understand the concept of clapping and match up the rhythm of the claps with the rhyming of their name if it is repeated frequently. 

#2 – Rhyming

Some names are far more complicated to pronounce than others, particularly for toddler’s who just beginning their talking journey. Therefore, using rhyming words – even ones that are made up – can help your little one understand the rhythm of their name and say it aloud. To further reinforce this, you can give your child a nickname that strengthens the rhyme, such as “Mark the Spark” or “Jen the Hen”.

#3 – Turn It Into A Song

Take the letters from your child’s name and incorporate them into a song – either one they know or one you’ve made up. Within the song, make sure each letter is mentioned (in order), and the pronunciation of their name is included (and ideally repeated) – and add some rhymes in there for good measure! Try to keep the song as repeatable and straightforward as possible. Using famous nursery rhymes or songs is generally a good idea as they’ll likely be familiar with those, but don’t be afraid to make your own songs and rhymes – just be sure to repeat them over and over and sing them every day!

#4 – Letter Magnets

By the time your child is able to recognise letters by sight, you can use letter magnets (or paper letters) to help them to learn to spell their name. When spelling out your toddler’s name, encourage them to say each letter as they place the letters in order, finishing by saying their name several times when they’ve finished spelling it. 

Teaching Toddlers How To Talk

There a wide array of activities and game you can play with your toddler to help them to talk, so don’t be afraid to incarnate as many methods and techniques as possible. If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few ideas to give you a nudge in the right direction:

#1 – Reading Together

Reading to your child on a regular basis – ideally every day – is by far and away one of the most effective ways to encourage their language development. But don’t just take our word for it! Research published in 2016 discovered that children who are read picture books regularly are exposed to a far greater vocabulary compared to merely hearing adult speech. Furthermore, a later study published in 2019 found that reading just a single book a day can result in children being exposed to almost 1.5 million more words than children who aren’t. Astonishing, right?!

#2 – Sign Language

Communication is limited to just verbally spoken words; it also involves gestures likes the one used in sign language. Luckily, you don’t need to be completely fluent in sign language to teach your little one a handful of signs (no pun intended!). Numerous parents have taught their babies and children how to sign for specific things such as milk and food, and to signify when they’re done or if they would like more. Remember, children can grasp second languages (including sign language) more easily than adults, so this may help them to express themselves if they’re not quite ready to speak.

Teaching your toddler sign language is relatively straightforward. For example, if you wanted to teach your toddler the sign for “milk”, you’d sign the word “milk”, while saying the word “milk” at the same time – repeating it over and over again, so your child associates the sign with the object or action. By providing your little one with an alternative form of communication, you may help them to feel more confident when communicating in general, as it may reduce their frustrations, creating an environment more conducive to learning. 

#3 – Use Language All The Time

Just because your baby doesn’t have the ability to talk doesn’t mean that you should stay mute all day long. The more you talk to and around your baby – and the more you express yourself – the sooner your toddler will learn to understand language and to talk. For example, if you’re dressing your baby, narratives or explain precisely what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. But don’t just do it when you’re doing things to or with your baby; do it whenever they’re present. Use simple words and short sentences when possible, but don’t be afraid to talk randomly about anything, everything, and everyone! The more you talk, the more beneficial it will be to your little one. 

#4 – Don’t Use Baby Language

If you put a baby in front of any human adult, it’s highly likely that they engage in “baby talk”! As adorable as baby talk or saying words incorrectly can be, you should do your very best to refrain from speaking like this. If your toddler says a word incorrectly, don’t go out of your way to correct, simply say the word as it should be said and repeat it a few times over. For example, my daughter always used to say “lotlit” instead of “chocolate”, Of course, friends and family members thought it was adorable and would say “lotlit” whenever my daughter said it. Still, after time she finally learned how to say it correctly. Repetition is the key.

#5 – Name Objects

Many toddlers and younger children will point to something they want rather than asking for it or saying the object’s name. If your little one does this, act as their interpreter to help them understand the names of the objects they want/point to. For example, if your little one point to a cup of milk, respond to them by saying “Milk. Do you want milk?’. The aim is to encourage your toddler to say the word “milk”, so when they’d like some milk, instead of merely pointing at their cup of milk, they’ll say the word “milk” as well or instead. Again, repetition is the key. 

#6 – Expand Their Response

Another tactic you can use to broaden your toddler’s vocabulary is to expand on their responses. For example, if your little one sees a cat and says the word “cat”, you could respond by expanding that and saying, “Yes, that’s a black and white cat”. This method can also be used if your child misses out a word in a sentence. For example, if your child said “the horse big”, you can expand this by saying “the horse is big”.

#7 – Choices

Giving your child choices can also help to further the communication skills. For example, if you have two different types of fruit and you’d like your toddler to choose between an apple and a banana, you can ask them “Do you want the apple or the banana?”. If your little one gestures or points their response, encourage them to use words as well. If they’re don’t the word or are unsure, repeat the word over as this will encourage them to say it.

#8 – Screen Time Should Be Limited

Despite the popularity of smartphones, tablets and the like, research has indicated that increased screen time on media devices can cause language delays in children who are 18 months old. Interaction with other children and adults is widely regarded as the most effective way to boost langue development – not staring at a smartphone, tablet, computer, or TV. It is generally advised that children aged between two and five should have no more than 60 minutes of screen time per day, and less time for those younger than two years. 

My Toddler Isn’t Taking; What Should I Do?

As stated above, children learn to speak at different speeds; however, in some instances, children may experience difficulties communicating verbally. Although it is impossible to be 100% sure whether or not this is the case, here a few tell-tale signs that your toddler is struggling with verbal communication:

– Inability to talk by the age of two.

– Limited vocabulary.

– Struggling to put sentences together.

– Having difficulty following directions. 

If you’re concerned that your child is struggling to talk, consult your child’s doctor. Although there are several causes for language delays, in some cases, it may be an indication of learning disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, or hearing impairments. 

Your toddler may need to undergo an extensive assessment to figure out the reason for their language delay. This will typically involve meeting with a child psychologist, an audiologist, and a speech pathologist. This triumvirate of professionals can help to identify any problems that exist and provided solutions for these, helping your child to reach language milestones.

If you’re interested in games and activities that can boost language development, read our article here.

How To Teach Toddlers To Say Their Name (And Talk): A Summary

Hearing your baby say his or her first words is undoubtedly an exciting time. As they grow up, you might be just as excited for your little one to construct sentences, follow directions, and expand their understanding and use of language. Therefore, it’s completely natural to feel a little dishearten or discouraged if your child doesn’t reach essential language milestones. Even if your child does seem to be somewhat behind their peers, this isn’t necessarily an indication of a serious problem. Children develop language skills at varying speeds; some will bloom early, whereas some may blossom later on – you never quite know!