SKIP TO CHAPTER
Her Developing Language Skills
Where she once tentatively added a word or two every few weeks, your 17-month-old will probably start learning them now at a rapid pace — so fast that by the time she turns two, she'll probably be using almost 200 words.
Help her along with concise, easy-to-follow language accompanied by gestures. For example, use short sentences and simple language (“big bus”, “nice cat”). Use gestures, as in shaking your head when you say “no”. Present one idea at a time, such as “Shoes on” while pointing at her feet. If you ask too much at once (i.e. “Put on your shoes, coat and hat”), she may not follow. Hold objects in front of your toddler and name them, then wait for your toddler to respond with a word, gesture or sound.
Encourage her language progress by taking her words and turning them into proper sentences. For example, a request for “milk!” turns into “You want more milk in your cup.” It will help her to expand her vocabulary and learn sentence structure. Play games that include simple directions, such as “Throw the ball to me.”
Will you understand all her words? Probably not. She's likely to mispronounce and mix up much of what she says until she's about three years old. For example, she’ll substitute consonants she has trouble saying with ones easier for her (“miwk for “milk”. Consonant blends (st, fl, br) are even trickier, which is why many toddlers simply leave out half the blend (saying “carf” for “scarf” or “fuit” for “fruit”).
She learns by listening to you, so skip the baby talk and, instead, expand on what she says to help her build her vocabulary. When she points to the fridge and says “nanna!” you can offer her the correct pronunciation as well as introduce new words by responding, “Would you like to have a banana for your snack?”
If your child’s language skills are developing more slowly, don't worry; toddlers follow their own talking timetable. If your toddler can understand what she hears and make herself understood with gestures and a few words or sounds, she's probably doing just fine. To help her develop her language skills, talk to her constantly, describing what you're seeing and doing. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about speech delay.