Chats With Calvin: How to Encourage your Toddler to Talk

My Sweet Boy….Cheers to countless Mother/Son chats!

Hey y’all! I’m so excited to be discussing the topic of ‘How to Encourage Your Toddler to Talk‘ today. Per our ‘convos’ on Instagram Stories, y’all know I have shared that we started Speech Pathology for Calvin. I won’t dive too deep as to the why or how. Because, as I’ve mentioned before,parenting is sensitive, personal, and there’s no universal handbook for every family and child.

You know your child B E S T. But after receiving an overwhelming response from you all with littles who may be experiencing a similar situation, and THE SWEETEST READER offering up some tips and tricks for us parents. So I felt it was a disservice to not share with y’all!

Just to give a little backstory, John and I sensed frustration with Calvin trying to communicate with us over the past few months, and while we are not overly concerned as I know he can UNDERSTAND what we are saying….we felt that WE could be doing things to HELP HIM better communicate with us…and alleviate his aforementioned frustration.

After having conversations with his pediatrician, we felt there was no HARM in getting him evaluated through the First Steps program. Collectively we decided we would seek additional therapy because after that first session with First Steps and the simple and easy tweaks we as a family could implement in his day to day, I thought, “Hell this is genius!! Lets do it!”

In my mind, it was such a similar concept to what our SLEEP TRAINER said to me, “Babies want to sleep, we just need to teach them how.” Or similarly, “Calvin wants to chat with us. Mom, Dad, and Sisters just need to give him a little extra help.” Again, gang, y’all know I ain’t in the business of preaching, judging, or the like. But what I do feel this platform is for, rather, is to help with tips and tricks. Should they apply to you. So let me repeat, I am not suggesting this is THE FIT FOR YOUR FAMILY. We have just found it’s the right fit for ours!

Ok, now that the disclaimer has been said….when I shared our backstory, a sweet Speech Pathologist reader by the name of Jessica Moeller, just like our sleep trainer Ashley, reached out and said, “Hey. I hear ya! This is what I do….if you want a few tips and tricks to help him along his way…I am more than happy to send your way!” And so, what I’m sharing below is the exact email from this sweetheart. We have put her wheels into motion and IT IS HELPING!!! So without further ado, here is (part) of our plan of attack for “Operation Chatty Chappo.” (I’ll be eating my words in a few months I’m certain #nopun)

How to Encourage you Toddler to Talk

Hi Beth! First of all, don’t stress. Calvin has communicative intent! Here are a few things you can do to help rev up speech:

1. Sabotage/play dumb.

You probably are able to anticipate what Calvin needs. He’s whiny so he wants his cup and you just give it to him. Fussy because his car is stuck. Excited because you just picked him up out of his crib, etc.. Give him a second to need to ask for his cup, ask for help with his toy, ask to get out of his crib.

You can say, “Are you all done nap? Tell me, “up!” Is your truck stuck? Do you need help? tell me, “help!” Uh oh do you need your cup? Say “cup!” Etc.. Model a normal phrase and then give him the word you want him to try to imitate. I wouldn’t expect his imitations to be crystal clear but consistent is good (help is always “ep”, etc). If it’s a word he uses often/spontaneously, try to model 2 words.. tell me “mama up! Mama all done, all done eat, more baby”.. etc. Sabotage by creating more opportunities to communicate- hand him the juice box without the straw, hand him the bar with the wrapper on, give him only a few of his favorite crackers so he has to ask for more. 

2. Be the keeper of the toys.

When you’re loading up the car carrier keep the extra cars in your lap so he has to request more each time. If you’re doing a puzzle hold the pieces, building blocks you hold the blocks. This creates way more opportunity to communicate back and forth and you can talk about what you have. Forces more communicative attempts on his part. Ziploc baggies and Tupperware are also excellent to store items and they need to request help/open for more each time. My almost 2 year old loves that spinny toy (?) Calvin has and I hold the 6 circles that go on the post. “Do you want more? Tell me! More!” or “Ready.. set.. go!” Ready.. set.. (wait!) ” before dropping the circle down the spiral. 

3.Nursery rhymes are great for anticipating the words and using hand motions.

See if you can pause and he will “fill in the blank” if not with a word than with a hand motion- “old Mac Donald had a farm, E I E I…. (pause)” “the wipers on the bus go swish swish swish swish swish swish, swish swish.. (even if he does the motion and not “swish” encourage a vocalization with it..”you told me swish!”). Highly recommend the farm animal squirt toys in the tub to work on animals and animal sounds. Environmental sounds are easier to imitate than real words (e.g oink is easier than pig, moo /cow, beep beep is easier than car etc). The fewer the toys the better in the tub when specifically working on a target like 3-4 animals. Rotate them around every few days (totally get easier said than done there).

4. Anticipatory phrases like “ready set go” and “123” are great for filling in the blanks.

You can even make up your own (eg stacking blocks “up up up OH NO! Up up up OH NO! Up up up… pause- let Calvin finish oh no!). Books like brown bear brown bear, llama llama, Sandra Boykin all great for reading and reading and eventually pausing to fill in familiar phrases (Brown Bear, Peek a Who (and all others in the series by Nina L), llama llama zippity zoom, green hat blue hat, moo ba la la la are all my top books for “filling in the blanks” but any book you read enough serves that purpose!)

5. Expand! If Calvin is saying “mama” model “mama help.

Mama all done. Mama ___”.. “milk”… “more milk, no milk, my milk” etc. Please and thank you are good polite words but they don’t serve much value in terms of getting anything out of them so try to pair with something he can use in a variety of ways. This is easier to practice with a high value toy or food item. More bubbles. Want more. My cup. 

Please let me know if you have any more questions or want me to expand on anything!


Your Align loving- Macro tracking- Starbucks sipping- Hanky panky wearing- Overnight resurfacing peel using- EBB shaking- follower. 

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