Cheri Gipson 4 min read

1-Word, 2-Words…Develop Talking Skills For Your Toddler

How to develop talking skills for your toddler….when should your toddler start combining words and thoughts, and how you can help them get their faster.

Their first word is a milestone…now let’s start combining words! These steps will make a huge difference in your child’s speech now and into the future.
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Your toddler’s first two-word combination is important to develop talking skills for your toddler as their first single word.

The two-word milestone is of equal important to develop talking skills for your toddler’s language development . When children first combine words, they are beginning to express two ideas with two words. A common first two word utterance from a toddler, may be something like “Mommy, Yes,” to indicate they want something. This is an early stage combination. As their language skills mature, they begin to add verbs to the mix, such as “eat cookie.” When verbs are included in their combinations, they are laying the foundation for future sentence structure and the overall development of their speech and language.

Little boy holding a picture of a bunny and a carrot
Toddler Tip: 2 Words @ 2 Years

Toddler Tip #1: 2 words by 2 years!
First words are expected to emerge around 15 months of age, toddlers are

expected to combine words around 24 months, at age two. This makes it convenient to remember: two-word combinations by age two.

Toddler Tip #2: 2 words = 2 ideas.

Toddlers often will say two words together like night-night and bye bye. But these are not examples of the two-word combinations we are looking for. When toddlers use these kinds of words, they are really just expressing one thought or one chunk of language, rather than two separate words that express two different ideas.

5 ways you can help develop talking skills for your toddler’s speech and be ready for two-word phrases:

While our rule of thumb is “two words at about two years old,” we also know that this is a general guideline, and children will develop at their own pace. So what is important is to see your child demonstrating some of the prerequisite skills.

1. Increase vocabulary to include verbs, adjectives and prepositions.

It’s important to make sure that your child’s expressive vocabulary includes a wider variety of words besides nouns.

Speech therapy for child and adult

In the English language, we are heavy users of nouns, especially when our children are very young. We tend to label everything. This isn’t the case in all languages, but it’s definitely true in English.

Nouns/labels: Cat, Dog, Car, Phone, Truck, Tree, Bush, etc.
Add Verbs: Dog Runs, Phone Rings, Truck Goes, etc.
And Prepositions: Dog Runs To the Ball. Cat is In the House On the Couch, etc.


So for this reason, verbs, adjectives, and prepositions need to be modeled by parents for your child. When you are playing, when they have an increased variety of words at their disposal, they will be more likely to then start combining these words together.

2. Watch for gesturing.

Another sign that your child is getting close to taking the next step in their language development is when they use a word and a supplementary gesture.

So for example, if a child points to their favorite blanket and says, “Daddy,” they may be starting to express those two ideas: “I want,” and “blanket.” “Can I please have my blanket?,” or “Will you get my blanket Daddy?” or “There’s my blanket.” Or, if they point up at Mommy and hold their hands up, saying “Mommy,” it’s likely they are indicating, “Mommy, I want up.” In essence, they have two ideas they are expressing to you.

3. Expand on your toddler’s phrases.

You can expand your child’s utterances. So, from our earlier example, if your child says “blanket” and also uses a gesture, you could expand on that by saying “oh, you want your blanket?”

If they are very young, you can make it very short. For example, if your child points to a truck and says “truck,” you can say, “big truck,” and even add gestures to your communication in order to help your child add supplementary gestures to their repertoire. And remember, pairing a word with a gesture is a first step.

4. Be specific.

Children often will default to “go” or “want” for a wide variety of needs. We recommend using the true action words to be more specific and widen their vocabulary early.

5. Do more at reading time with this proven technique – dialogic reading.

When you engage more during reading time, your toddler will expand their language skills even faster. Engage in dialogic reading with your child. Dialogic book reading is when you follow your child’s lead by asking questions and leading them to respond in longer and longer phrases.

When should you be concerned if your toddler is not using two-word combinations?

Recent studies have shown that the late emergence of two-word combinations from toddlers is related to future language difficulties. A common term you might hear is “Speech Delay” about children who aren’t talking as early as expected. And when there is a delay for starting on combining words, that also can be a signal that your child may benefit from some extra practice or help from a speech therapist.

If your child has turned two, and they do not have action words, verbs, adjectives like “big” and “little,” or prepositions like “in,” or “on” in their expressive vocabulary. Or they have not begun to produce two-word combinations, it would be helpful to seek out an assessment with a speech language pathologist.