How To Encourage Reluctant Talkers To Communicate (In Six Simple Steps)

Alison Coldridge
·Editor Yahoo Style UK

Most parents can’t wait for the chance to communicate with their child verbally, so it can be frustrating if your toddler’s reluctant to speak as often as you would like him to.

But while learning words and how to form sentences is a big deal for your little one, it's something that you can help him with.

Remember; all children develop at different speeds [Rex]
Remember; all children develop at different speeds [Rex]

1. Get Your Child’s Attention
Start by making sure your tot’s listening every time you speak to him, so that he can tune in to your talking.

“Say his name and get down on his level so he can really hear what you are saying to him and know that you are listening to him,” says Mandy Grist, a speech and language therapist at I CAN the children’s communication charity.

2. Choose Topics That Interest Your Child

Just like you’re more likely to talk until you’re blue in the face about how this season of Broadchurch is going to pan out or why the Chelsea FC is the best thing since sliced bread, your toddler will engage with conversations that interest him.

So whether he loves Lego or is obsessed with Peppa Pig, get chatting about something that he's really into.

What toddler doesn't love Peppa Pig? [Giphy]
What toddler doesn't love Peppa Pig? [Giphy]

3. Follow Your Child’s Lead
Don’t push your toddler. Instead, follow his lead when communicating with him.

“Try not to ask too many questions, especially ones that sound like you’re constantly testing the child (for example ‘what’s this...?’),” says Mandy.

“This might take some pressure off him to speak and allow him to talk more freely.”

4. Provide Options
If your child is reluctant to ask for what he wants, or is struggling to learn the words he needs, try giving him choices.  

“For example, at snack time ask him, ‘Do you want a banana or raisins?’ and hold the items up in front of him,” says Mandy. “He’s more likely to respond to this than to questions that only need a yes/no answer, such as ‘Would you like a banana?’

“You can use this technique throughout the day wherever you are. For example, ‘Shall we go on the swings or the slide?’ and ‘Would you like to play with the ball or do puzzles?’”

We all love choices - and your toddler is no different [Rex]
We all love choices - and your toddler is no different [Rex]

5. Simplify Your Speech
Try to keep your language fairly short and simple and avoid using baby talk as this will give your child a good model to follow that he can copy. Speak slowly and break down the syllables for your tot to get to grips with.

6. Wait For An Answer
Young children take a long time to process what they hear and benefit from a long pause to plan what they’re going to say.

“As long as seven to 10 seconds can be needed for them to make sense of what they hear and decide how to respond,” says Mandy. “So, don’t rush in if your child doesn’t respond but instead give him plenty of time.”

Where To Get Help
If you would like advice on boosting your tot’s confidence talking or some information on typical talking milestones, visit the Talking Point website or speak to an I CAN speech and language therapist.

[Watch: Baby Talk Tales]

[How To Help Develop Your Baby’s Vocabulary]

Has your toddler started talking yet? Let us know in the comments.