Let’s Talk Talking Toddlers! With Speech & Language Therapist Joanna Hardman

Today on the blog, Joanna Hardman, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist with 30 years' experience of early childhood communication development is back to share some top tips for helping your toddler develop their early communication skills. 

To see Jo's baby communication tips, read this blog first: 

Let's Talk Talking Babies! With Speech & Language Therapist Joanna Hardman

Toddler Talk


The average six-year-old understands about 20,000 words! It’s a huge job learning to talk and what an amazing achievement. Parents have often asked me how best to boost their children's talking and yes, it is true that boys are often a little later with their talking than girls! Children need to hear words to learn them and they need to hear them again and again at different times and in different situations to fully grasp them. We know that some young children have heard millions more words than other children by the time they get to school. But, it's not just hearing them that's the key - they need to hear talk directed to them rather than just from bystander conversations; that’s why children won’t learn language so well from a tv or screen.


My Top 10 Tips for Talking!


1. Add a word

Stay one word ahead of your child - if they don’t speak yet, give them a chance to hear single words ‘apple’ ‘shoes’. Once they start talking, repeat and add a word so if they say ‘bus’ (or ‘buh’!) say ‘yes, big bus’ or ‘yellow bus’. Then when they start saying two words, you use three and so on.


2. Let them see and hear

Support what you say with gesture, this can be formal gesture like Makaton or just your own like pointing. Imagine listening to a language you don’t know - if someone pointed and held up pictures or objects, you would understand a lot more. Young children are the same. If I say ‘fish’ it's gone in a second, if I stand holding a fish it’s there for a lot longer!  You can see and smell it and it will help you remember!


3. Scaffold your child’s talking

Just like scaffolding supports a building, you can support your child’s talking with supportive words and word choices.  ‘did we go to the park or the zoo?’ ‘we fed the …..’


4. Repeat

Talk about every day things and routines - it doesn't matter if you did the same things yesterday that lead to the same conversations - the repetition will help them recognise and retain the information they're learning.


5. Wait!

Give some gaps and silence so your child has the chance to talk!


6. Be careful with questions

Don’t bombard your child with too many questions because it puts on the pressure - just comment ‘that’s a lovely blue painting’ rather than ‘what's all that blue about?’.


7. Use all the senses

Touch, taste and smell fruits when learning about fruit, and so on...


8. Choices

Give choices when you can - for example, at dressing time hold up 2 T-shirts and ask ‘do you want blue or red?’, this way the child sees how important their communication is. This works well at meal times too: ‘apple or pear'? At first your child will look or grab for their choice, eventually the words will come.


9. Shussh!

Remember, background noise is distracting for little ones so turn the TV/radio off when you can to really help them focus on you and your words.


10. Have Fun!

With silly songs and rhymes - your baby won't judge you for being out of tune! Language is the key to educational success, making friends and general wellbeing. Books with repetitive patterns are also fantastic, like ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’. Find your favourites and sing/ read them over and over until they join in.

Joanna Hardman



As part of our speech & communication development week here at JoJo, we have created a channel for you to ask Jo any questions you might have about your child's speech development. You can write to: