First words in children are so exciting, but first sentences are a whole other level. The purpose of this blog is to inform you when your child should be combining words into short sentences and some tips to help them along their journey.
Communication is a very involved process. It starts with cooing, making sounds, babbling and then progresses to word formation. The final step of this journey is combining words into short sentences and then moving into conversation.
Between 18 and 24 months, your toddler will start combining SIMPLE two-word sentences. These sentences might sound like “go now,” “go play,” “me tired.” You might even find that your child will say the same two or three word combination over and over again. This happens because toddlers don’t always understand the meaning of the words that they are using, so they get stuck on using the ones that they can say.
Crying is much easier to do and gets a bigger reaction, which is why your toddler might still cry unexpectedly instead of speaking. This happens more frequently if your child is tired, cranky, frustrated or overwhelmed. H/she will use the crying in an attempt to get the message across until they can successfully communicate verbally.
By age two, your toddler will start turning her two-word sentences into questions (“Go home?”) and using new words in short sentences. These sentences will still not be grammatically correct.
My husband (English teacher) used to correct my daughter’s grammar all.of.the.time and it drove me insane because she developmentally wasn’t able to grasp those concepts. Don’t panic if it’s not 100% correct! They will get there, I promise!
A year after learning to construct short sentences, she’ll likely know a word for almost everything she wants to say and will be constructing both sentences and questions well enough for everyone to understand (most of the time, anyway). Even if that’s not entirely the case, as long as she’s saying new words and using her old standbys in different ways, she’s making important progress.
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She’ll get frustrated if you frequently jump in — and may even give up on trying to speak in sentences. Give your child time to form the sentences and always model the correct speech that you want them to say.
Include her in your conversations with your partner and older children to give her a chance to chat. It’s ok if your toddler says things that don’t fit into the context of the conversation. He/she is trying to communicate and that’s a good thing!
Speak clearly and simply, using real words and complete sentences so she can see how it’s done. They learn by example. If we use baby talk, that’s what they will use.
As you go about your day with your little helper, talk about everything you’re doing together: “Let’s head down this aisle to get the chicken that we’ll cook for dinner.”
If she yells “Chicken!” at the dinner table, say “Yes, we’re eating yummy chicken for dinner.” Add adjectives to the conversation and soon she will too.
Two-sided conversations are a good way to boost language development because they help tiny talkers practice their new skills, so pose questions to your toddler that call for more than a yes or no answer. Just don’t pressure your pipsqueak for a reply if she’s not ready to give one.
Stay focused when she’s speaking. If you get distracted, she will too.
If by 4 years of age, they are not combining words and sentences are still not being created, you need to get a screening or evaluation by a speech-language pathologist. They will be able to determine if it’s a true speech delay and can provide you with “homework” to conduct at home in order to get your toddler speaking in longer sentences.
In the meantime, I suggest you download the Speech Blubs app and get started! They have a great deal of language learning activities like “Building Sentences” that can help your child elevate vocabulary and get an early understanding of grammar.
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