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Communication and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old

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Communicating with our kids is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding parts of parenting. Children learn by taking in information through daily interactions with us and the world around them.

How Toddlers Communicate

Between the ages of 2 and 3, toddlers have a huge jump in language skills:

  • At age 2, most kids say at least 2 words together. By 30 months, they are saying 50 words or more and are understood about half of the time. They are using words like “I,” “me,” or “we.” By 30 months, most kids can follow 2-step instructions, like "Pick up the ball and bring it to Daddy."
  • By age 3, a toddler's vocabulary usually is more than 200 words. Kids can string together 2- or 3-word sentences. They can talk with you in a conversation that has at least 2 back-and-forth exchanges. Other people can understand your toddler most of the time.

What Should I Do?

The more interactive conversation and play kids are involved in, the more they learn. Reading books, singing, playing word games, and simply talking to toddlers builds their vocabulary and teaches listening skills. Here are a few suggestions to help encourage your child's communication skills:

  • Talk to your toddler about what they did during the day or plan to do tomorrow: "I think it's going to rain this afternoon. What shall we do?" Or discuss the day's events at bedtime.
  • Play make-believe games.
  • Read favorite books together and ask questions, like “What is this?” or “What is the bear doing?” Encourage your child to join in with words or let your child "read" to you.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

By 3 years old, most toddlers:

  • say at least 50 words (by 30 months)
  • name things in a book when you point and ask (by 30 months)
  • say what action is happening in a picture, like running
  • ask who, what, where, or why questions
  • say their first name when asked
  • are understood by others most of the time

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your toddler's language development or speech clarity, or if you think your child has trouble hearing.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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