Speech & Language Development

You might find your preschooler chatting away, which is great practice for their speech and language development! While there are certain universal stages of language development, every child learns language differently. Knowing what to expect and what language skills are normal at this age will help you determine if there are any areas that require some input or development.

What is language development?
Your little one develops language when they are exposed to language and communication in their environment. Talking to your little ones in ‘baby’ language, for instance referring to a dog as a ‘woaw woaw’, does not encourage their language to develop. You little ones are smart, so talk to them like smart little people.

What are language skills?
Language skills refer to your little one’s ability to use the language or languages they have learnt to communicate effectively with you and other people. For example, your little one may be chatting away in two languages, but still needs to learn in which context to speak which language in order for the right people to understand them.

What language skills should you expect during ages 2-4?
A child’s language development is complete after age 7, but their language skills will always be developing! Below are guides for you to assess your toddler’s language development.

What is considered normal: 

  • Pronunciation difficulties.
  • Vowels should develop faster than other sounds.
  • Substituting sounds, for example: f or d sound for th “I’m taking a baf” for “I’m taking a bath,” a y for an l, “lollipop-yoyyipop’
  • Doubling consonants and pronouncing them next to each other, “Soppit!” for “Stop it”.
  • Shortening words into shorter syllables. For example: banana pronounced as nana.

What should raise red flags:

  • Mispronouncing vowels, such as saying “coo” instead of “cow”.
  • Using single words only, not phrases or sentences.
  • Not understanding the association of words with the right objects. If you say, “Show me the cat,” and your little one repeats the phrase or ignores the instruction.
  • If your little one answers a question by repeating part of the question. If you ask, “Do you want milk?” and the child responds by saying, “You want milk?” instead of nodding their head or saying “Yes”.
  • Not understanding prepositions. For instance, your little one doesn’t turn around when you say, “Your ball is right behind you.”
  • Your little one can’t use pronouns like ‘him’ or ‘her’, and confuses gender.
  • No language development at all.

What causes speech delay problems and how can you help your toddler?
Speech delays are often caused by an underexposure to language. In this case, you should engage with your little one more, using verbal, visual and auditory communication. Help your child by actively ‘languaging’ with them.

Speech delays can happen due to a wide range of different causes, most of them an indication that your baby’s brain functioning is not optimal. There can be different reasons for this. If you notice any of the signs mentioned about, you should consult a Speech and language pathologist, Developmental Paediatrician or your Paediatrician to ensure that you can be referred for the right intervention and therapy.