For Parents, Language Therapy, Little Friends

5 Strategies For Late Talkers (That You Can Use TODAY!)


(Noah Hinton via

So your child isn’t talking yet and you are concerned. Let’s get one thing out of the way-

It is not. your. fault.

If we knew exactly what caused kids to be late talkers, no kids would be late talkers! There’s a lot of different factors that could be at play, but we won’t be focusing on that today. And we certainly aren’t placing that blame on your shoulders. We are focusing on action.


First, some basic information:

  • Communication can be either nonverbal (crying, gesturing) or verbal (using words) as long as it is *INTENTIONAL*.
  • First we focus on labeling objects and requesting objects. Answering questions and good manners (please, thank you) come later.
  • Consider getting your child’s hearing tested at their next checkup- particularly if they have a history of ear infections. Too many kiddos are not learning language because they cannot hear it.
  • Around 1 year of age, we want children to say their first word. Around 2 years of age, we want them to start using two word phrases.



Now on to the good stuff… you have probably heard before to reduce iPad/TV time, read more, and play more with your late talker. I will throw in a big ol’ “YES” to this. But I’m going to give you a a few suggestions that are a little more specific.

file-9 (7).jpeg


  1. Say lots and lots of “environmental noises”- This means using lots of onomatopoeias, animal noises, and transportation noises. Say them every chance you get throughout the day. It could be during play, during snack time, or when you see a really cool truck drive by.
    .Examples: moo, uh oh, vroom, meow, owie, yum
    Why: Kids tend to imitate these “non-word words” more easily so we can use them to teach imitation. Besides, they are silly and attention-grabbing!

  2. When speaking: be slow, repetitive, and succinct. Keep it simple for our kiddos. Talk to them often, but make it easy for them to process. For example, let’s say we hear a train blow its horn:

    • We don’t want: “Oh wow! I hear the train too! Chugga chugga chugga chugga choo choo. It’s loud! Oh it’s getting closer! I wonder where it’s going. Maybe it’s carrying bricks and milk. Maybe it has animals! Do you remember seeing Thomas the train? He says ‘I think I can I think I can!’.”
    • We do want: “Tain! Ooooh train! Loud train. Choo choo train! I hear a train!”

    : We are giving your kiddo plenty of time to process the language they are hearing. We are also providing repeat exposure to our target word. In the above example, it is “train”. We want to try to say our target word 5 times in a given context.


  3. Place their favorite toys in sight but out of reach- We are creating opportunities where they need to communicate with you. When they begin to reach or grunt to ask for their toy, do the following:.

    • Hold the toy close to your face and name it.
    • Pause for 5 seconds to give your child an opportunity to imitate.
    • If they don’t imitate- it’s okay! Name it one or two more times and then hand it to them.
    • If they do imitate- YAY! Hand it to them.

    WhyOur purpose here is teaching that words get us cool stuff. The purpose for holding the toy close to your face is to facilitate the interpersonal nature of communication via eye contact. It also encourages them to watch your mouth while you speak- this activates their motor mirror neuron and helps lay the pathway in their brain to eventually perform the same movement with their own mouth.


  4. Choose easy words to target or encourage imitation- We want simple, highly motivating words. The easiest consonants to say are P, B, M, T, D N. We generally want to keep words to one syllable or two simple syllables.

    • Use: ball, up, mama, dada, puppy, cookie
    • Do Not Use: strawberry, caterpillar, words they don’t care about

    WhyThe easier a word is to say, the more likely they are to imitate. So many kiddos are nervous to try until they know they can be successful. They are also more motivated to attempt saying words that get them want they want- so a big focus is motivating nouns.


  5. .Create verbal routines- Verbal routines are repetitive phrases that you say with your child. At first, you are responsible for saying all the words. Over time, you give your child opportunities to fill in words.One great way to do this is to pick repetitive, kid friendly songs and sing them slow. Over time, start pausing to allow your child fill in the words. One of my favorite songs to do this with is Old MacDonald. When you get to the big, shining moment where it’s time to say “OH”- pause for at 5 to 10 seconds. It is going to feel very awkward and unnatural to you because your brain has had years of practice processing and using language. Be patient and see what happens! If they don’t fill in after you’ve given ample time, go ahead and fill it in for them.Why: You have done a large part of the work for the child by establishing the verbal routine. They don’t have to think as hard about what to say because they already know what should come next. This decreases the cognitive demand and leaves room for participation.


That wraps up these quick tips! Give these suggestions a fair shake. If you don’t see progress in two to three weeks, seek an evaluation with a Speech Language Pathologist in your area. Communication is power and early intervention is key!

For additional information in a handy-dandy handout form, you can check out this freebie in my TeachersPayTeachers store:


If you have any questions at all, please leave a comment below. I am always happy to answer. Now go have fun with that little human!

previous post
next post