Toddler speech development: Are 2-year-olds understandable?

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Toddler speech development: Are 2-year-olds understandable?

Question

My 2-year-old uses sounds more than words. Should I be concerned that I can't understand anything he says?

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Answer

If you're unable to understand any of your 2-year-old's words, a prompt evaluation with his or her doctor would be warranted.

Although every child grows and develops at his or her own pace, toddler speech development tends to follow a fairly predictable path. For example, the average 2-year-old:

  • Speaks about 50 words, but understands even more
  • Links two words together
  • Uses simple adjectives, such as "big" and "happy"
  • Speaks clearly enough for parents to understand some of the words

The average 3-year-old:

  • Speaks 250 to 500 or more words
  • Speaks in three- and four-word sentences
  • Uses pronouns (I, you, we, they) and some plurals
  • States first name

By age 4, most kids speak clearly enough for strangers to understand.

The doctor will likely consider possible underlying reasons for the speech delay, from hearing problems to developmental disorders. If necessary, the doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist. Treatment options for toddler speech development depend on what's causing the speech delay.

In the meantime, encourage toddler speech development. Read to your child. Talk to your child. Sing songs together. Ask your child questions, and acknowledge your child's responses — even if he or she is hard to understand.

Last Updated: 2010-12-16
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