How to help a 24 month old toddler who is not using words.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations with our kids where we know we need to seek some more support, but at times that may not be easy dues to waiting lists, processes or geographical considerations.

In these times, I know for me I start to hunt for information.

We live in an age where there is so much information at our finger tips.

I find myself being intentional and discerning about what I want to pay attention to.

So, as a speech pathologist of over 26 years’ experience and a mother of four – where we have lived with communication difficulties in the toddler years. I know how hard it can be watching and waiting. So, I refuse to do it. I like to be curious, but not concerned.

I am going to touch on over the next few weeks a series of ‘common questions’ that speech pathologists find themselves being asked. Please feel free to email me any you may have.

Question: My 24-month-old toddler is not using words to communicate and is getting frustrated. How can I help?

When I see this little person face to face there would be a few things I would be on the look out for. This will be covered on another day – but I am always looking for strengths. What can they do? How do they get their message across?

Back to the question though, how can I help?

  1. Be sure they can hear. If middle ear troubles have been a concern, then definitely check on hearing. See your local GP to ask about how to do that in your area?
  2. Copy your little one. Copy their play, copy their actions. Join into their play. So, if they are playing with a doll, you get a doll and copy what they are doing, then add language. If they are jumping. You jump… and add language.
  3. What are they looking at? Pay attention. Give them the words for that.
  4. Play with sounds – be a car (brrrmmmm), a lion (raaaaa), chicken (buk, buk). Can your toddler make a range of sounds? By 24 months our kids will be making a range of sounds. They may not always put them into words the same way an adult does, but you will hear them.  At 2 years you are likely to be hearing p, m, n, w, b, h – these are early developing sounds.

What happens if they get frustrated? This is really tricky.

The best thing you can do is try to avoid situations where it might happen.

So perhaps have a think about having pictures of the things your toddler loves in the house so you can show them a picture and they can point to it. If your toddler loves a game then have a photo of you guys doing that. Encourage them to point.

Ask them to show you, if that is at all possible.

When my kids were little, I always took the responsibility for the misunderstanding – so I never, ever said – I don’t understand you. I would say things like – “I am sorry I was not listening”, “Can you say that again, I did not hear you”.

Offer choices when you can – do you want banana or apple? Then they get to hear the word before saying it.

Teach them signs – more, finished, stop, go. These give your little one some personal power (something we all need).


  • accept all their attempts as words, give them intention;
  • model the word to them, saying it as they would if they could;
  • see your local speech pathologist.

I have developed my Toddler Talk Kit for parents in exactly this situation – looking for support whilst they wait for local support. I do not believe in the wait and see approach to life. I like to feel a little more empowered than that. The Toddler Talk Kit will get you stated, it will help you to support your toddlers talking. You are their best teacher.

You will find more information about the Toddler Talk Kit here.

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