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Nurturing a 2- to 4-Year-Old's Speech and Language Development

These are some things you can do to help your 2- to 4-year-old learn new words and say longer sentences:

  • Make reading a part of your child's daily routine, and choose books that show lots of action. Ask your child to point to familiar items and make the sounds that go with them. Say, "Point to the fire engine" and "What sound does the fire engine make?"
  • Visit the library on a regular basis.
  • Limit your child's television viewing. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to limit TV time to 2 hours a day or less.
  • Add to what your child says. For example, if your child says "red ball," you can add another word like "soft red ball."
  • Describe feelings. For example, when your child is crying because he or she cannot go outside to play, you can say, "You are upset and feel sad because you cannot go outside now."
  • Teach your child the correct names for common objects, such as "toes" (not "piggies") and "cut" (not "owie").
  • Don't imitate your child's unclear speech, constantly correct, or embarrass your child by making him or her repeat unclear words, especially when other people are around. Correct your child in a positive way by rephrasing, repeating, and relabeling.
  • Encourage your child to talk to others, including other children his or her age. But don't force your child to talk or make him or her uncomfortable by insisting on conversation.
  • Don't talk for your child. For example, allow your child to ask you for something he or she wants.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised December 2, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 02, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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