Communicating with a child, from infancy onward, is one of the
most pleasurable and rewarding experiences for both parent and
child. Children learn by absorbing information through daily
interactions and experiences with other kids, adults, and the
Communicating With Your Child
The more interactive conversation and
kids are involved in, the more they learn. Reading books,
singing, playing word games, and simply talking to kids will
increase their vocabulary while providing increased listening
Here are a few suggestions to help improve your child's
- Talk to your toddler about what he or she did during the day
or plans to do tomorrow. "I think it's going to rain
this afternoon. What shall we do?" Or discuss the day's
events at bedtime.
- Play make-believe games.
- Read favorite books over and over and encourage your child to
join in with words he or she knows. Encourage "pretend"
reading (letting your child "read" a book to
Vocabulary and Communication Patterns
Between the ages of 2 and 3, kids experience a tremendous growth
spurt in language skills. By age 2, most kids can follow simple
directions and speak about 50 to 200 words. Many kids also begin to
echo what they hear and start combining words in short phrases.
Kids this age usually can follow additional instructions, such
as "Come to Daddy." A 3-year-old's vocabulary
typically is between 200 and 300 words, and many kids begin to
string words together in short sentences.
Kids at this stage of language development start to understand
more and speak more clearly, and they're usually able to use
language to engage in a simple question-and-answer format.
By age 3, kids should be using language freely, experimenting
with sounds, and beginning to use language to solve problems and
learn concepts. They can also count three objects correctly and
will know their age. However, although they use and understand many
words, only about 75% of what they say will be understandable to
If You Suspect a Problem
If you suspect your child is having trouble with
, language acquisition, or
clarity, call your doctor. A hearing test may be one of the first
steps in determining if your child has a hearing problem. Two years
of age is not too young for a referral for a speech/language
evaluation, particularly if your child is not following directions
or answering "yes" or "no" to simple
A speech-language pathologist (an expert who evaluates and
treats speech and language disorders) may recommend:
- direct therapy
- referral to a developmental pediatrician if there is
suspicion of a global developmental delay (delays in more than
one area of development, including gross motor, fine motor,
problem-solving, language, and social skills)
- early intervention services
- a follow-up assessment to see if your child will catch up
Typical Communication Problems
Communication problems for 2- to 3-year-olds include:
- hearing difficulties
- problems following directions
- poor vocabulary acquisition
- speech dysfluencies (difficulty initiating or sustaining
- delayed acquisition of phrasing skills
- unclear speech
Problems - such as
- may be a developmental process that some kids will outgrow. For
others, more intensive therapy may be needed. Medical
professionals, such as speech pathologists, therapists, or your
doctor, can help your child overcome these communication
Some parents worry that a toddler who is not speaking may
have autism. Children with autism and related conditions may
have delayed speech or other problems with communication, but poor
social interactions, and limited or restricted interests or
patterns of behavior are also hallmarks of this disorder.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child's
development, talk with your doctor.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.