Help your child speak in sentences

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help your child speak in sentences

Is your toddler stuck at the single word level and only just starting to use two-word phrases. If this describes your child, you might be wondering how to help progress your toddler so they can speak in sentences.Here’s some information and practical tips to help your toddler speak in sentences or short phrases.

Firstly, when should my toddler begin to speak in sentences?

From about 21 months to 24 months, children begin using two-word phrases spontaneously (i.e. not an imitation, say them on their own). Around the 24 month mark, your child’s expressive language should primarily consist of two-word phrases (rather than single words).
Suppose your child is between 18-30 months of age, has fewer than 50 expressive words, and has no two-word combinations by 24 months (with otherwise typical development in other areas). Then your child meets the classification of a “late talker.” 
Fortunately, 70-80% of “late talkers” will catch up with their peers when they start full-time schooling. However, to reduce the gap between your child and their peers with more advanced language, it’s essential to give your child a little extra push as soon as possible.

What verbs will help my toddler speak in sentences?

For toddlers who use at least 50 expressive words and are imitating two-word phrases, you can start focusing on more specific verbs.
What do I mean by “specific verbs”? It means instead of working on general all-purpose verbs; you will start teaching your child verbs that are specific to the context. For example:

  • Instead of “go”, you might teach ‘drive, run, or ride’.
  • Instead of “put”, you might teach ‘take, move, open’.
  • Instead of “that’s a..” you might teach ‘look, I see’.

For late talkers with less than 50 expressive words, you will need to focus on more general-all-purpose (GAP) verbs such as ‘go, put, more, want’ etc.


I like to call these words POWER WORDS. 

Why? Because your child can use these words within multiple contexts, enabling more functional communication early on, before they learn more specific words.

Combine the words your toddler already uses with new words

Once your toddler uses various nouns and verbs, you can model short two-word phrases by combining their existing words with a few new ones. For example:

  • Adjectives: Combine nouns with describing words such as colour and size. E.g. red car, big cookie.
  • Verbs: Combine nouns with existing or new verbs. E.g. drive car, see birdie, teddy in.
  • Pronouns: Combine nouns and verbs with early pronouns. E.g. my hat, mum’s hat, I draw, dolly eat.

Speaking in sentences requires “filler” words

Helping your child speak in sentences isn’t just about teaching new nouns and verbs. A Phrase User also needs to learn all the minor “filler” words (aka syntax units). These “filler” words can easily extend your child’s sentence and teach them to use grammatically correct sentences later. For example:

  • The – “pour the water.”
  • A – “a plane”, “I see a dog.”
  • Is – “daddy is driving.”
  • Plurals (‘s) – “two socks”, “give the blocks”.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Phrase Users need to learn more verbs.
  • You need to model two-word phrases with other familiar words.
  • Don’t forget to model all the syntax/filler words!

If you’d like a step-by-step method on how to help your toddler speak in sentences, then make sure to check out the Speechie Parent Playbook – The Phrase Builder.

Help your child speak in sentences
Download here

The Phrase Builder provides you with a specific “word pantry” that will help move your child from single words to phrases and sentences. It also provides you with the fundamental skills, strategies and step by step recipes to specifically encourage your child to speak in sentences— building the foundations for more complex expressive language in future.

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