EXPERT Q&A

How can we help our 3-year-old who isn’t yet talking?

It’s natural to be concerned if your child is delayed in their language development. Care Nectar expert Crystal Morgan shares tips and guidance to help you support your child if they aren’t yet talking.

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Question

Our 3-year-old son isn’t talking yet. He’s enrolled in First Steps, a speech therapy program, but doesn’t seem to be making progress. He has about 20 words that he uses consistently, and our pediatrician said he should have hundreds by now. We are feeling discouraged but want to help him as best we can. Should we be worried or trying to teach him sign language? Or is there anything else we should be doing?

Answer

I hear the concern in your message, and it is completely understandable. It sounds like you are tuned in and doing what you can to help your little one. He is in good hands! And all of your questions are the right ones to be asking!

Without more detail, I cannot advise on specifics but if you haven’t already, I encourage you to raise these questions to the speech therapist working with your son. Do not hesitate to be specific. It can be helpful to write down your questions in advance of your therapy session, since at times, it can be difficult to remember everything in the moment. Your speech therapist should be able to answer your questions and empower you with appropriate exercises to do as “homework”.

There are steps you can take if you feel you are not getting the answers and support you need from your speech therapist. Express this to the therapist you are working with, their management team, and the health system you are working with. If they do not take the appropriate steps to meet your needs, it is worth exploring other therapists and health systems. You can also ask your pediatrician for additional resources if you are unaware of others in your community. As you navigate care for your child, you deserve to feel assured and confident that they are receiving the best care and that you are getting the answers you need. 

Regarding what you can do in the meantime to help your child, one of the best ways to develop speech and language for toddlers is through play. Parents can use playtime as an opportunity to promote language development while having fun. Remember, the more words children hear the more they will learn. 

Here are some activities to enjoy words together:

  • Read aloud with your child. Find some favorite stories and read them throughout the day, including before bedtime. You can also make up stories as well.
  • Sing songs and recite nursery rhymes.
  • Play rhyming games. For example, work with your child to think of all the words that rhyme with “cat”.
  • Encourage conversations about things that interest them. If they are playing with a toy, ask questions. “What color is the toy?”
  • Narrate your day. It’s important for your child to hear words, so talk to your child about the activities that you are doing. And describe your surroundings. For example, when walking from a parking lot to the store entrance, talk about all the cars you see in the parking lot. And name the different items you see in the store.
  • Be attentive! Listen closely when your child is talking and praise them for trying.
  • Be patient! Give your child time ot respond when talking with them.

In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and your child. Understandably, you feel discouraged when the progress is not recognized as soon as you wish. Keep at it and remember that each child develops at a different pace

Hang in there and remember CareNectar is here for you!

Meet The Expert


Crystal Morgan

Crystal is a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Family Nurse Practitioner with more than 18 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in Labor and Delivery, Postpartum, and Newborn Nursery. She is passionate about all things related to women’s health and maternal child including breastfeeding education and support, and health and wellness promotion. Learn more and contact her at: toughtittylactation.com