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Speech-Language Recommendations for Children under 3

Effective communication is one of the most important foundational skills that affects all other areas of development. Communication helps connect with others; builds relationships; and allows to regulate and manage emotions through the use of exchanging gestures, body language, words, and ideas. Here's a quick list of suggestions to encourage communication from your little one.



  • Use clear and simple speech that is easy to imitate. Show interest in what your child says and ask him/her to repeat things that are unclear. For example, “I know you want fruit. Tell me again which fruit you want.”

  • Be a commentator and narrate everything that you and your child are doing in short and simple sentences. For example, during bath time, say, “we are bathing. See the duck? The duck says, quack.”

  • When your child is beginning to talk, give choices and reinforce any successful communication. “Do you want apple or crackers?” “Thank you for telling mommy/daddy what you want. I will get the animal crackers.”

  • Use phrases that are 1-2 more words that what your child is producing. If he/she is using one-word utterances, use one or two more words. For example, if your child says, “dog!” You respond with, “yes, big dog!” or “that’s a brown dog!”

  • To expand on vocabulary, learning concepts, and following directions, put toys in a basket. Ask your child to remove a named object once he/she has labeled it. “You’re right, that’s the ball. We throw/kick/roll a ball.” Then give your child directions with positional words such as, “put the ball under the blanket,” or “put the ball on the table.”

  • To expand on vocabulary, learning concepts, and following directions, have your child name and sort like-items (animals, fruits, foods, colors, shapes) together.

  • Read interactively with your child and read often. Use books with large pictures and simple phrases on each page. Name and describe pictures (e.g., “look at the dog. Dog says woof”). Have your child point to named pictures. Ask your child to name pictures.

  • Introduce rhythm and sounds of language by singing songs, playing finger games (Where is Thumbkin?), and telling nursery rhymes (I’m a Little Teapot, Humpty Dumpty)

  • Look at pictures of familiar people and have your child name them. Use simple sentences and describe what is happening in the pictures to introduce verbs (e.g., “daddy is fishing” or “grandpa is running”)

  • Encourage peer interaction. Same-aged children naturally imitate each other’s play and language

When should you use these recommendations?

Use these strategies during your child’s everyday routines in their natural environments. Examples include:

  • Diaper changes

  • Public outings (e.g., amusement parks, zoos, parks, etc.)

  • Bath time

  • Mealtime

  • Getting dressed

  • During play


  • Pause for responses or initiation of communication (at least 5 seconds) …it's okay to have silence: This is when sounds, words, and gestures will occur.

  • Slow down your speech. This allows your child to process what you are saying. Let them know there is plenty of time.

  • Overemphasize consonant sounds and repeat the first sound of words: Example: Cat…/k-k-k/…Cat


Happy mother holding adorable child baby boy [image]. (2011). Retrieved from

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