Parenting Counts is a product of Talaris Institute.


Keep Talking

Building language every day.

Learning to talk is harder than it seems. If your child makes mistakes, don’t worry, he has a lot to learn. If you want to help your children learn words, remember this simple rule: the more you talk, the more they learn. Babies and young children learn to speak by listening to you, so start talking to them the day they are born!

Make the most of everyday events like bathing, getting dressed, going for a walk, grocery shopping, or making dinner as a chance to talk with your child. Playfully tell him what you are doing. Ask questions. Point out interesting things. What you talk about isn’t as important as how much you talk.

More words each day.

When kids start to speak, they often blend words into one big sound. “I want it” might come out “awwha.” By four, they are saying more and more words correctly and learning to play with language through rhymes, songs, and familiar sayings. By seven, children can say most words as well as you and me, but they still have much to learn. All languages have different sounds, but in English, some sounds are harder to learn than others:

  • Children between 1 and 3 years of age usually can say words with these sounds: p, m, h, n, w, and b.
  • Between 2 and 4 years old, they learn the sounds of the letters k, g, d, t, ng, f, and y.
  • The sounds of r and l are a little more difficult, and some kids may struggle with these sounds until they are 6.
  • S, ch, sh, z, j, and v are the hardest, and kids may be unable to say them easily until 3 to 8, depending on the child.

Speaking is “twicky”.

Even when your child says something silly or hard to understand, don’t criticize him, make fun of him, or try to correct him. If he says something wrong, be gentle and say the word correctly and see if he can repeat it. In time, he’ll figure out the right way soon enough.

Learning to talk is hard, but you can help. Be kind. Be patient. Learning words takes lots of practice. Try to include your child in conversations, read books together, and have fun with songs and rhymes. Kids learn at their own pace, but the more they hear, the better.

Helpful parenting tips

Kids learn language by listening to you. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Starting at birth, talk to your child every chance you get.
  • Describe what you are doing and ask questions. Use short sentences and lots of different words.
  • Don’t expect perfect speech from your toddler or even your 7-year-old. Learning how to make sounds correctly takes time.
  • If you think she might be trying to say a real word, say it for her, and see if she agrees that you’ve got the right one.
  • Be a good example. If your child mispronounces a word (like “wabbit”), don’t criticize her. Instead, say it correctly: “Yes, that’s a rabbit.”
  • Sing, tell stories, and read to your child.
  • If you’re concerned that your child has difficulty with speech, talk to your pediatrician.