21 Month Old Speaking

Updated on July 11, 2011
N.M. asks from Dallas, TX
19 answers

I have a 21 month old son that's not speaking, he mumbles a lot I mean a lot most of the time he walks around the house "talking" mumbling but we can't understand anything he's saying. But he can answer the phone and say Hello! or he'll walk up to his father and I and start pointing out body parts saying ear, mouth, teeth, eye, nose, feet,belly. He also says No,Da-Da,Yes,Uh-oh,Stop,Mama,Fish,Bird,Dog,Shoe,Sock,Ball,Shirt,Love You,Please,Thanks, Amen, Eat,Up,Down,Potty,Boo Boo,Pee Pee,Me,Mine,Night Night,Bye Bye,So,Go,Huh, One, two, three but he doesn't use phrases at all. I've heard people say that at his age he should be using 3 word phrases but he doesn't and a lot of things he only says when he feels like it. When he wants milk or something to eat he won't say the word, he'll just grab our hand and pull us to the kitchen or hand us his cup and pull us to the refrigerator when I try to get him to form a phrase he becomes really stubborn and just starts to cry until he gets what he wants. Sometimes I get really frustrated because I know that he can or at least he should be able to but he won't and not all of his word are very clear, you get the idea of what he's trying to say but it doesn't come out crystal clear is that normal? What should I do I don't want him to get behind, he's never been to daycare my husband and I work opposite shifts so that we can save money and stay home with him. I'm lost this is my first son and I need some help or suggestions to help with his development please.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Provo on

My middle son never spoke in sentences until he was 3. Then he was never quiet again. I don't think he was able to breathe when he spoke. It really just depends. My daughter was speaking in phrases before she was a year old.

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Your son might have delayed speech, and staying home might contribute to it. Did you find a play group in the area to join, or invite neighbors with children of the same age for him to play with? Did you check out story time at the local public library? I know some people teach their young kids sign language, which helps tremendously to communicate and avoid frustration for everyone.
I also had delayed speech when I was a kid, and still remember how frustrating when words didn't come out like I wish (I was about 3 and a half). Now I am fluent in several languages and nothing would stop me talking!
To be on the safe side, check with your pediatrician if there is anything else underline, such as hearing problem.
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I used sign language with my oldest son and I although I could communicate basic needs/wants with him this way I feel it delayed his speech a little bit as well. He didn't say half of the words that your son says at 21 months, but at 26 months he just all of a sudden started communicating beautifully. Full sentences and good grammar. You still have time, don't worry too much, but do (as another momma said) take him to the pediatrician and rule out anything medical. Try making him use his words that he knows to ask for things instead of pulling you and making sounds. Tell him he has to use his words and ask if he wants something. Once you figure out what he wants and he says the words, repeat it in a proper sentence for him to help model what he needs to say. So if he says 'milk' you say 'May I please have some milk mommy'. Don't give in to the crying, you are just prolonging the problem. Make him ask. Stay calm with him if he does cry and just tell him you'd be happy to get him his milk when he asks using his big boy words. Be strong, I know it's easier just to get the milk, but you really are only hurting him in the long run and you are teaching him that if he begs you (cries) he'll get what he wants. Not a good pattern to start this early!
Also read books to him! A lot! Mine didn't want to sit still for books but I did it anyway. If you get through two pages, fine. Just try it again later. Sit down and build something with him and talk to him the whole time.
He'll get it eventually - don't worry too much.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

Hi, N.!
I won't tell you not to worry. That is what we do. We love our kids and want to do anything and everything we can for them. I have a one and only child. My mother passed away when I was eight years old so I have no go-to or back-up. What I have learned with my daughter, now seven, is that there is no schedule or set of guidelines that applies to her. She is an individual. She has met her milestones on her own terms at the right time for her. There is nothing wrong with her. She is beautiful, happy and healthy. The pediatrician has always reassured me that she is doing great. She fell off the growth chart. She didn't start talking until she was ready. You'd never know she was ever quiet now:) And now we are making adjustments in school to help her do the best she can do. I want her to know that it doesn't matter who else can do whatever how well. As long as she is reaching her potential and doing her own personal best she can be proud of her accomplishments no matter how great or small. Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Talk to your doctor, if you are concerned.
However, to me, that sounds really normal, because it sounds just like my son at that age - especially the walking around mumbling/grumbling all day! He is now nearly 3 and wont stop talking about everything.

I dont think he should sound crystal clear at this point.

Also, keep in mind, there is receptive and expressive language development. For receptive, can he understand what YOU say? If you say, "point to the light" or "touch the table" does he understand what you are saying?

I really would not be frustrated, upset, or concerned at this point. I think he sounds 100% normal. Also, keep in mind that there is a range of what "normal" is. At this age, my niece was carrying on full conversations with people, but another cousin only pointed at things.

To help him, keep modeling language. If he has "Shoe" say, "Yes, you are right. That is mommy's shoe." Turn whatever one word/two word phrase into a sentence in front of him.

Also, sing and listen to childrens songs - especially in the car, if you are busy.

Limit TV, and replace it with situations where you can talk with each other - playing, cooking, reading... Even though, on TV, they hear language, they dont get to interact with it - so its good, especially under two, to keep it turned off.

Read lots of books and talk about the pictures on the page. I like all books, but think the Little People books, and the Richard Scary (Busytown Books) are good because there are lots of little pictures to look at and talk about.

Talk about everything you do, all day long - groceries, laundry, dishes, etc.

Dont get frustrated/upset with him about the his speaking. He may or may not be being stubborn, but frustration wont help him.

And, if you are still concerned, talk to your doctor. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I wonder the same thing about my Son. He is 20 months, he says words here and there not as many as your Son though. He can follow directions anything we tell him he does and says probably 10+ words if that (but in 3 languages). He is in day care 3 days a week- Spanish speaking only. My Mother in Law watches him 2 days- Vietnamese only. At home my Mom and I speak English to him, My Dad- Spanish and my husband- Vietnamese. I know he hears lots of languages and the Doctor says its great for him to learn them all so don't stop but just be prepared for him to probably talk a little later. Sounds like our boys are right on track with each other. I worried when he didn't walk until 15 months and now he is everywhere running! I worried when he didn't have any teeth at 10 months old- now he has tons of pearly whites :D I guess as parents we worry but they sound about the same to me so don't worry!



answers from Dallas on

I know the experts say that if they aren't meeting the speech milestones, to get them evaluated early. My son was not talking at his 2 year old doc checkup and the doc pushed us to get a speech eval. At the time, he was only saying 7 words. I decided to give it 6 months, just to see if he would start to pick up more. At 2.5 years, I would have taken him to be evaluated if I didn't see any improvement. My son is currently 2.5 years old and is speaking in full, complicated sentences. He learns and speaks new words every day and has NO issues speaking. He is ahead of most of the kids at day care. Hard to believe that he could only speak 7 words 6 months ago! I'm sure that had I gotten him evaluated, he would have been labeled as having a speech problem. I know this, because I had him in feeding therapy at the time, and the therapist at the place said as much to me - that he likely had a speech delay.

Yes, some kids need help and I was lucky that mine didn't. I just don't understand why kids have to be labeled as "slow" learners just because they may not be following the timeline that someone developed. My son may have started late, but he sure did catch up! If it were me, I'd give it a few months. It sounds like your child is saying quite a few words, much more than mine did at that age.



answers from Dallas on

My 33 month old daughter just started receiving speech therapy from Early Childhood Intervention & is doing very well. Before the therapy, she has a large vocabulary but very few multiple word phrases, also prefer to point & to gesture rather than speak. After 3 sessions with the therapist (in-home & with me observing & learning too), she is talking in full sentences, mostly understandable, telling us her wants & needs, & just much happier that she's understood. Maybe DD had a speech problem or maybe it's just that she needed the structured learning that they offered. I know I definitely learned how to teach her & to get her to communicate verbally without both of us getting frustrated with each other.

Talk with your son's doctor & see if ECI makes sense for you. Your son's pediatrician might say to wait a little longer, like my DD's did. ECI is wonderful, the initial assessment is free whether your insurance covers it or not. If therapy is needed, then they'll let you know what your max out-of-pocket fee is if they can't get your insurance to cover even a part of it. You can set how much therapy your son receives or refuse it all together...ECI is nonprofit & totally optional.



answers from Dallas on

My son was much like yours. He could say a handful of single words by 21 months or so, but didn't speak in 2 or 3 word phrases - he preferred to point or grunt or yell instead. However, it was clear that he understood everything we were saying to him and could follow both simple and complex directions. Right around the age of 2 he suddenly picked a ton of new single words, sometimes 8-10 new ones a day. Then just about a month later it was like something finally "clicked" in his brain, like he figured out HOW to put more than one word together. He's 28 months now and talking up a storm, full sentences, the whole kit and caboodle. Some kids are just late bloomers.

I like to think that he was too busy growing his brain cells to waste time talking!

I don't know if your son in particular could benefit from a speech eval like some of the other parents have mentioned, but there is a really wide range of normal. Those "milestone" ages are just averages. I don't think it would hurt to have him evaluated (I considered that myself for a while), but it sounds to me like your little one is within the range of normal for his age.



answers from Los Angeles on

Please be patient and have your child assessed by a speech therapist. Your son may have Childhood Apraxia of Speech or more likely Dyspraxia of Speech. The things you describe sound very similiar to my own son (just turned 19 months) and when I researched it all, it was a real "oh my gosh!" moment. Be patient your son may really, really want to respond, but be physically incapable of doing so.



answers from Dallas on

It won't hurt to get him evaluated by a speech / ECI specialist, but he really doesn't sound far behind to me at all. There is a very wide range of normal when it comes to speech development, and boys more often fall on the slower side of normal. I wouldn't try to force him to say phrases at this point, especially if he is visibly frustrated (if he's not, then it doesn't hurt to encourage him to say it, but I wouldn't make it a power struggle). Instead, just repeat back to him in slow clear phrases what he wants. So, he shows you he wants milk, then you say "Would you like milk?" he says "yes" then you say "Yes, you want milk. Ok. Here is your milk" or something similar. Keep reading and singing to him, go to library story time, etc. Again, by all means have him evaluated if you are worried, but I have personally known several little boys who spoke less at that age.



answers from Dallas on

He sounds pretty normal to me and according to most milestone development ideas, right on par for his age. Many kids don't start using 3 word phrases until 24 months. My youngest is almost 21 months and has words galore but has just started using phrases, his newest sounds like "dummy" but we have figured out he's saying "down me" when he wants to get down from his high chair or no longer wants to be held.
My oldest was carrying on conversations at 24 months like he was an adult, he was not in daycare and only had a little extra socialization in the form of some mommy and me classes. Honestly it depends on the child and you can work with him but it's not worth making him upset over it. Ask him questions so that he will begin to answer you even if its just yes or no etc. Read books with pictures and point out colors/objects/shapes. Narrate everything you guys do with him including while riding in the car looking out the window.
Does he follow simple instructions and fully understand you? I wouldn't worry too much pretty soon it will all come together and you'll wonder if he'll ever stop talking..
As a side note, my little guy is far more active and into climbing/running etc than my oldest was- oldest didn't walk until he was fifteen months old and is still very timid when it comes to climbing etc but the little dude got caught standing on the back of the couch two weeks ago.



answers from Dallas on

You should probably start with a speech evaluation from a speech therapist. Does he understand you when you give him simple direction, I.e through this in the garbage? You can have receptive and/or expressive language delay. My son had an expressive language delay. The bottom line is the sooner you get him help the better. Do not be fooled into "he's just a late talker." language delays are very closely related to other learning disabilities. my son went had a hard time learning to read and still struggles with writing and spelling (all related to language. dallas has a tremendous amount of resources. Do not confuse language delay with lack of intelligence( my son's IQ is 140). At this age you can get help from county resources if you do not have insurance. Scottish Rite does excellent evaluations for free but they are for dyslexia (very common language based). I thick they evaluate as early as 4 y/o but they may be able to direct you. You can also plan on doing this eval later because once you apply is takes6-9 months to be seen. Ask all around for a good speech therapist - as with anything it's hard to find someone who is very good at what they do! It's worth it because there opininon will affect the route you/your son takes for years to come. Sorry but I am new to TX and do not know anyone, my son is now 11!



answers from Wichita Falls on

all I can say is that he sounds just like my son, who is just fine now, was before he turned two. I was mildly concerned because he yammered so much, but we couldn't understand most of it. And he had many words, just like your son, but almost no phrases, at 21 months. After he turned two, it was like a switch flipped. Seriously, within a month of his second birthday, he began speaking like a completely different child. I was amazed. He is 4.5 now, and his teachers in pre-school tell me that he has one of the largest vocabularies they have ever seen. And he speaks perfectly most of the time - although the morning meal is still "break-tast." Maybe it always will be - and I'm ok with that 'cause it makes me feel like he's still my baby.

I can't say whether you should have your son evaluated, but I would give him a bit more time. I was flabbergasted by the change in my child after his second birthday.

God bless!



answers from Houston on

i would get his ears checked for fluid. Mine is hard of hearing and does that too but yours smokes mine on number of words said. I wouldn't worry about not saying 3 word sentences yet. He maybe hard to understand due to fluid or ear infection. and eat and drink may be hard for him to say. Just keep saying the words to him. Get on his level. I know you will hear this alot but my babysitter is better at this than I am and she has helped his words alot. When you speak to him speak loudly. you will have problems remebering to do this at first. But my guess with what you are describing and my son being hard of hearing would be a simple ear infectin or maybe fluid. I wouldn't worry much past that. The words not coming out clear at that age isn't necessarily abnormal. Mine babbles a whole lot but very few actual words. Call eci and get him evaluated they will be able to guide you. they are through your school system.



answers from Detroit on

Our oldest 3 kiddos Really did not "speak" till they were closer to 2 (daughter) and 3 (2 sons). You know they CAN say words. But the did more of cave man talk then sentences... But once they decided to let the words out man... You can't STOP them! My sisters first child ( 9 mo girl) already has a vocab of 5 or so words (car, bird, mama, dada,...) My 11 month old daughter is all dada ... nothing else..

Girls are vocal and tend to speak before boys... Boys are visual so they are content to sit and put a block into the same hole over and over with out saying anything.

You say he says that whole list of words... So, he IS speaking! He understands and follows commands. Stop agitating him and let him develop at his rate... :-) I was all worried with out 7 yr old when he started school (at age 5) because he was a late talker (and shy to boot) BUT as soon as he got over the newness then his vault of words opened up. All the boys in my family ( 20 or so) tended to be grunt and mumble communicators until they were about 3 then they started talking in full and complete sentences...

People think its awesome when a child skips crawling and starts walking right away... But for some reason a lag in what is "average" and people start thinking that they need to get their child "evaluated"... You know your child. I found that as soon as I started worrying and told someone about something then the child would suddenly prove me wrong and a worry wart by doing over and above what I was worried about... :-)

Think of this... All the great minds and artist in history... And not a single one of them went to "Daycare"... http://listverse.com/2007/10/06/top-10-geniuses/ There may be ONE on this list that MAYBE could have... I don't think of that as a detriment to his vocalization ability.

Just relax, keep talking to him just like you did before. "Do you want some milk? What would you like?etc... One day soon you will realize that he's been speaking in sentences for weeks and that it crept up on you when you wern't looking.



answers from St. Louis on

I would agree with the idea to socialize him with other kids (assuming that he isn't too much now). It is difficult to do at this age because they are still playing by themselves a lot, but it could work. Also, just keep track of how much he is saying and in 3 months when you go in for your 2 year appointment, talk to your ped. 3 months won't hurt you or him and you can see how much he picks up between now and then.

My sister is a speech path and she agrees that kids speech develops at such a different pace that it is hard to just draw a line across the board. My kid is the exact opposite and will repeat literally everything we say. Now we have to watch every little word we say around the house because he just spouts it off. My MIL had 4 kids and said every one of them was so different, one of them not talking until she was almost 3 and now is an English teacher...

Just keep track of what he is saying and try a kids group or some learning videos and just keep encouraging him. Play dumb sometimes- Don't open the refrigerator until he says- juice please or something closer. a little tantrum won't hurt... eventually he will get there if he is already saying all those other words!



answers from Dallas on

The school district is legally responsible for providing speech evaluations for children under 3. Contact the special education services department of your district. However, as a special ed teacher with 12 years experience, if you can afford a private evaluation by a speech pathologist, I would do that. You will get the evaluation results more quickly and will be able to start therapy immediately. The bureaucratic school system might take 6 months or longer to get him processed to even BEGIN therapy, and I would want my child to get help more quickly. Additionally, I suspect that your son will benefit from some therapy, and he will likely progress quickly; therefore he would only need therapy for a short period of time. They will also teach you games to play at home to help his development. Beware, if you go through the school district, their evaluation may indicate that therapy is not needed while a private speech path would recommend a short course to catch him up. Speech development will impact all areas of language - reading and writing in school. I highly recommend you help him NOW before he starts school and possibly begins a cycle of failure and frustration in language arts. You can always take your private speech evaluation results to the school district and have them provide services; BUT, they may not provide therapy as frequent and intense as a private speech path. Good luck!



answers from San Diego on

idk, my son is 17 months and doesn't say a thing! just mama and nana. :(

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions