25 answers

How to Get a 2 Year Old to Use His Words

my 2 year 3month old son is lagging in speech, he will say basic words, momma, dada, ball, sis, doggie etc. and is putting 2-3 words together like "no mama". he will not try to use many other words. we have tried with holding items like cookies and certain toys if he does not use his words but this created a power struggle and he refused to speak even more. we would say "say cookie" two or three times he would look at us say no and walk away. we have tried giving rewards for using words. we limit tv, we read and play daily. he is able to pick out his shapes, some colors, letters and numbers. he refuses to talk and this is killing us. any advice?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

We had our speech evaluation. the speech pathologist reported he is actually right on target. she "graded" his motor skills at a 4-6 year old and said that toddlers who are way above on motor skills often lack verbal skills due to their focus. she said she is not concerned because his understanding and memory is excellent. she gave us some more helpful hints on increasing speech. He should grow out of this. Yeah!!!

Featured Answers

You need to take him to Columbus Speech adn Hearing Center. They have a program he could most likely get into. Anyhow there are a tons of games to play with children to get the mouths awake etc. They really can help you but a few examples are have him suck pudding through straw. They have them brush thier teeth, sides of the mouth, roof of the mouth. It all wakes up the nerves in the mouth. At least go for testing and then a speech pathologist can help you with ideas.

You said the key thing that it becomes a power struggle. Do not try to force him to do things that he does not want to do. That only makes him resist even more. I would not be so worried at this point. He is only a little over 2. Now if he was 4 then I would be a bit moe concerned.
Remember all kids develo at different times. When he feels like it, he will start talking. Its going to be so much, that you will sometimes wish that he couldn't talk as much. :) I hope that this helps.

More Answers

You said the key thing that it becomes a power struggle. Do not try to force him to do things that he does not want to do. That only makes him resist even more. I would not be so worried at this point. He is only a little over 2. Now if he was 4 then I would be a bit moe concerned.
Remember all kids develo at different times. When he feels like it, he will start talking. Its going to be so much, that you will sometimes wish that he couldn't talk as much. :) I hope that this helps.

Don't stress over this my daughter did the same thing at her two year check up I think she had maybe 7-8 words in her vocabulary she would not repeate anything you asked her to say and she had absolutly no two word sentences (like no mom). I was really stressed because I was trying not to compare her to other children but she was way behind two little boys that are only weeks older than her. My peditrician told me I could take her and get her speech and hearing checked just to reassure myself but she didn't think there was a problem. I ended up taking her two different days one for her hearing then one for her speach, the speach therapist told me that she was delayed with a couple of things and would benifit with some therapy but I never took her it was very expensive.

She is now 2 1/2 and she never stops talking I have to say it was probably only a couple of months after taking her to the doctors that she began picking things up. Sometimes I think kids just need to do things at there own pace, continue telling him the words but don't force him if he doesn't want to say it because from personal experience it just upsets the child and you. Give him some time I am sure he will begin to
talk more.

MY son had the same issue. He understood everything, he was even pottytrained at 18 month, just not verbal. His doctor made me take him to get his hearing checked, it was perfect. Then all of a sudden around 2 1/2 he just started with full sentences. He will be 3 in Jan. and never shuts up! I wouldn't worry about it yet. My mom said my brother didn't talk until he was 4 and he ended up a valadictorian of his class. Your son is fine.

You need to take him to Columbus Speech adn Hearing Center. They have a program he could most likely get into. Anyhow there are a tons of games to play with children to get the mouths awake etc. They really can help you but a few examples are have him suck pudding through straw. They have them brush thier teeth, sides of the mouth, roof of the mouth. It all wakes up the nerves in the mouth. At least go for testing and then a speech pathologist can help you with ideas.

My advice is to back off a little. Continue to encourage the use of words by setting a good example, like using lots of words especially in sentence form with him. But don't let it be a power struggle. He is only 2 years old and he probably is feeling anxious about the pressure it sounds like you are putting on him. If you're offering him a cookie, model what you want him to say like "Mommy, may I have a cookie", maybe make it funny, then you respond and let him have it. Make a big deal, but I wouldn't use rewards, especially treats like candy or cookies, for talking. Applaud and cheer when he tries and relax when he doesn't. Believe me, in a year (at most) you'll be wishing for these days when he wouldn't talk! (My son is 4 1/2 :-) It sounds like he is pretty well on track so as to not be concerned about delays. According to "What to Expect: The Toddler Years" at 27 months it says they should be able to use 50+ single words and combine words. It sounds like he is doing that so just keep encouraging and avoid the power struggle. Greatest parenting advice I have heard/can give (especially true for toddlers) is "Pick your battles".

Be patient. I know how frustrating it may seem. Does he use a pacifer? My daughter did. She would talk with it in her mouth but never with it out. It was so hard to understand her. Well, she will be 3 in four months and now she is a jabber jaw. It may take some time for him to want to use his words. Like coming out of the shell. All things take time and soon your son will be talking so muc, you'll ask yourself why you wanted him to use his words.

Ok so this may sound weird but my son will be 2 in dec. and I knew that he knew alot of words but wouldn't say them either. So what I have done and it seems to work is, when he wants something or is pointing I will say the word and ask him to say it.. ie: if he points to a movie or a toy I will say the toys name like superman and then ask him where is superman? you need to call him and then he says it.. then after a couple of times with that he says it on his own.. it's weird but it works for me.. we used it with names too where is grandma call her and he says her name. hope this helps :)

Since it is a power struggle, remove the stress. Talk to your son, play with other little kids who chatter, respond when he does talk, but stop saying things like, "say cookie."
Just let him be, and he will soon gain more words. Also, shows like Sesame Street and Blues Clues "talk" to the audience so I suggest letting him watch those, since they are educational.
Best wishes,

Your son might not care to communicate with you or the others now,but he would care in daycare center, preschool or in playgroup. Children might not understand and play with him because he doesn't use words like the others do. Get him around with other children definitely help alot!!! Singing is also a good way to make children talk! My son wouldn't talk but he would sing. It is a very frustrated situation but i don't worry about it! They will talk when they realize communication is far more easier than gesture.

i would not be too worried- my son who is now 7 did the same thing. he would just point and make noise! keep encouraging the use of words! my son is totally normal and does great in school. just keep your doctor posted so he/she can tell you if any intervention is needed! best of luck!

Hi H.,

My daughter is now four years old and is in speech. She spoke few words at two also, but we all knew she understood everything! The number one advice I got while watching her in speech is that the therapist would use the words "tell me..." instead of "say..." when she wanted Ally to say a specific word. She has always responded better to this phrase. Also, I agree with the sign language advice. I have a degree in Deaf education and I taught her sign language (while talking). She still uses signs she makes up to help explain a word we don't understand. I think it has helped her cognitively make the connections between words and objects. We pay for private speech now because she passed the test by two points, so Insurance won't pay for it! I really want to send them a video of her talking and ask them if they think she needs help now. She has made a lot of progress now and we can understand her and she loves to talk about everything. I know how hard it is to see your perfect child play with peers and to compare their language skills though. It can be heart wrenching. We all wish we had a crystal ball to see if they are going to be ok in the future.

Best of luck...you are welcome to e-mail me if you have more questions.

Call your pediatrician and have them evaluate your son. If you know there is a poblem there is. I babysit a 3y/o boy whose parents don't seem to care that their son can not communicate. He can say a few words but the rest is babble that you can not understand, like an infants! He was in speech therapy for a little while, an hour a week, they did nothing with him at home( and they wondered why speech did not work)! They have since stopped. I think if you are working with him and it is not doing much you should get some help from a speech therapist. They could give you some ideas you are not aware of. This is a huge problem for Alex- the boy I sit for. He is no where near where a 3 y/o should be. It is going to set him back in school and socially, it already has. He can not play with my daughter, a game as simple as hide and seek, he can not comprehend. So I say get professional help for your little guy- just to give him a little push into talking. I wish you and him the best of luck!

Our son just turned 2 and he doesn't talk very much either. We just had his 2yr check up and the Dr said that as long as he can communicate with us somehow and we can tell that he understands what we are saying, and can take simple directions, etc., that is what is important. She said that kids vary so widely in speech development between the ages of 18 months and three, but most of them are about even by the time they reach 3. She also said the thing you should watch out for is that they are always adding words, even if it is slowly, and not losing them. We've noticed our son has added several more single words to his vocabulary in the last month and has very recently started stringing a couple words together, like "more trucks". Our daughter was speaking in sentences by the time he was her age, so I try not to compare. Kids are all different. My mother-in-law says my husband was a late talker, and I've seen enough family members who were late talkers who eventually caught up and were very bright little kids, so I don't worry about it. Our boy was a late walker too... almost 15 mos. Now I can hardly remember him not walking... and now running... and climbing... and I'm sure it will be the same with talking too.

One suggestion that may help you and your son's communication frustrations in the interim (if you haven't already tried it) is to incorporate some simple sign language into your routine. We use(d) some like "more", "stop", "milk", "thank you" "change diaper"... I picked up a video from the library when my daughter was little called "signing with your baby" which teaches a lot of the signs and the methods for teaching them. As they learn to say the words for the signs, the signs sort of drop off.

Talk to your childe A LOT!. Please don't pressure him, it does not help. The power struggle will only have him associate a negative feeling with talking and will lead him to avoid it. Ask him to name words but do not hold things from him if he doesn't respond. If he does then praise him like crazy! Research shows that parents who talk to their children constantly will have children whose vocabulary is well developed and will be ready for school. As long as you are doing that his words will come naturally without the pressure. My 3 year old daughter didn't use a lot of words but we talked to her constantly and eventually she just started using complete sentences. It is amazing but don't try to force it. There is no set time table just enjoy every moment and his language will follow, I promise.

hi H....i have a 4 yr old step-son that we really cant understand half of what he is saying...my girls talked early so when we sent him to headstart i asked the teacher about it...she said that at 3yrs kids only have to point to what they want...then after that age they should start saying what they want...after a few months of headstart (preschool) he has picked up alot from the kids he is around there...we have all girls at home but him...so maybe getting around other boys his ae that he can relate to might help...i wouldnt stress about it right now...i'm sure he will be just fine...best wishes...Pebbles

Hi H.,

My daughter is only six months older than your son and we went through the same thing. Even the words she used were difficult to understand. The thing is... she could clearly comprehend the things we were saying to her. Then one day - out of nowhere - she started talking in complete sentences! For the past two or three months she has learned upwards of 10 new words a day. If your son understands you and there are no physical problems that prevent him from speaking, there's a good chance he's just rolling all of the words around in his head and will start using them one day soon out of the blue. It's cliche to say they're like sponges at this age but it's really true! It doesn't necessarily mean there are any developmental problems. It's just that some kids speak before they think but it seems our kids think before they speak. If your son is like my daughter, he may have done the same thing with walking. She was a relatively late walker (13 months) but after that first step, she never looked back. We always theorize that she perfected the walking (and talking) mentally before tackling it physically. I hope this helps put your mind at ease.

J. H

he knows what you want but at the same time he knows that you know whats he wants and he seems to not understand that if you know what he wants why not just give it to him (in his mind) he will talk when he knows its absolutely necessary dont push him to hard because he will only get frustrated and give up totally you dont want this to become a battle of wills because at 2 yrs old he will win because you cannot actually make him talk no matter how bad he wants thats cookie or whatever but in the end he will lose because he sounds like a very bright two year old and he is talking so please dont push him to hard or he might stop trying all together and i know you dont want that

Our oldest was born talking but then her sister and brother were slow to talk because she did not give them a chance. With the second we were worried and had test run. Then she spent the weekend with her grandparents with out her older sister to interpret. She came home talking at about 2 & 1/2 she has not stopped yet and she is now 9. She started talking about stuff that had happened months before. When the third came along and was not talking much my mom made the same offer which we refused we knoew to enjoy the silence while it lasted. Being a boy he doesn't have the verbal skills of expresing his emotions like his sisters and sometimes that has been a problem when he gets frustrated or angry. But we jsut remind him to use his words. I have noticied if they can get what they want with out talking then why bother. They work us from the get go.
Good luck,

Our son was like that too, and was enrolled in speech therapy. I think the therapy was really for my husband and I to better understand how to encourage our son to talk. The therapist recommend the following: 1)tell your son everything you are doing for him. If giving him a bath, tell him you are washing his arms, putting shampoo in his hair, etc... 2) When he does make any sound at all, repeat the sound back 2 or 3 times and then say a word 2 or 3 times that starts with that sound. Also use play time to help. Bounce a ball and say "up" and "down". If he looks confused or has trouble with a toy, ask him if he needs "help". After 2 months of these type of exercises, it was like a door had been unlocked and my son started saying all types of words. Sometimes they just need a little extra help. Best of luck to you.

My 2 year old daughter is great at playing charades - she can get a point across on what she wants with no words...and only says a few right now (daddy, dora, kitty, ball and "dink" for anything to eat or drink) - however she just turned 2 on Nov. 12th and I started telling her before she turned 2 that once she did, Mommy and Daddy wouldn't be as smart as she was and she would need to use her words...now, when she wants something, I explain to her "I don't understand what you want...you have to use your words." and will name everything around what she is pointing at. (ie a cup on a table...I will name the paper, pencil, book, etc...then when she touches the cup will sound very surprised - "Oh, you wanted the cup?" and repeat the word cup a few times)...I'm hoping this will help her. I have heard her talk in sentences a few times and heard her singing to Dora on tv, but the moment she notices we are watching her, she will stop, smile and go back to her baby talk.

He sounds just like my son was at two. I enrolled him a music class (kindermusik) and I watched him blossom before my eyes. Music really seemed to encourage him to want to speak. He started singing the songs and then he began to say small phrases and his vocabulary grew more and more week by week. I can't say enough about the roll that the music class played in his speech development. He is now 4 years old and I can't get him to be quiet now!

God Bless
J. F.

The best thing I can advise is for you to try to get him in speech therapy, and then use their suggestions at home to help him talk. My neighbor is going through this with her 19 month old- he won't talk at all, except an occasional mama or dada, but he definitely understands what is going on around him and can follow simple commands (like sit down). It sounds like you are doing a great job, but you have run out of ideas. Maybe speech therapy can help you help your son through this.

Hi H. how are you? Don't rush your son he will get his words..my son who just turned 3 in october is speeking rather well now...he uses sentences but they are not always clear..but like i said just practice talkin with your son and just let him be a kid
usually when you try to rush you kids they tend to retaliate against you anyways..so good luck and always have fun with your son using different words as well..talk to you later
take care

If you are really worried that there might be a problem, then gethim evaluated, but personally, I would not worry about it. My brother (10 years younger than me) Did not say more than a few words untill he was 3 years old, and then started talking in complete sentences! My husband was also this way, my MIL said that untill he was 3, it sounded like he was speaking Chinese, and then he also broke out in complete sentences. My daughter is 21 months and can say anything she wants, and said her first words at about 5 months, but my son (7 months) says "Ma" and that is it. I am not worried because girls tend to develop speach skills a LOT earlyer than boys, while boys tendto be more advanced physically, crawling and walking sooner. Also, don't pressure him. He is not a toy parrot, and probrably the pressure is some of what is keeping him back. Just let him go at his own pace, keep working with him, but don't withhold stuff. I would just worrie that pushing him to hard could actually delay his developement and cause problems, like trying to potty train before they are ready. Just don't worry too much, and you never know, sometimes those who talk late are really the most intelligent!

Our 30 month old son has the same problem. Our Help Me Grow worker discovered that he wasn't speaking like he should. She had me contact my pediatrician. Then we was sent to Children's for speech/hearing test. The lady said that he had serious problems. To long to list. Well our Help Me Grow worker and doctor didn't believe it.
So they sent us to Happy Day. They tested him. He isn't that far delayed. He is about 6 month behind other kids. He was tested at 2. He had expressive language difficulties. He is in a class with like 5 other kids. 2 of them are normal children, 1 other one is mid stream like him, 2 are worse then him. He is emotionally and physically advantaged.

Since he started in Sept. He only goes 4 hrs a week. He is making leaps and bounds. We are amazed when he starts talking. Currently he is talking fast and low. But if we listen we understand. It not understanding grunts and points but there is real words.

At home we give him the word that he needs. If he wants a drink. We say the word "Drink" and whatever it is he is drinking. Now he understands us.

His baby sister is starting to talk as well. The school is helping her. She is picking up on the words that he is saying.

If you can get him to look at your mouth when you speak slowly to him. It helps. But it is difficult with our son. Our daughters love to watch us talk.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.