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Ask Dr. Sears: Toddler Talk

Q. It's hard for us to understand what our 2-year-old is saying. Should we see a speech therapist?

A typical 2-year-old comprehends everything but says little that's clear. As long as his hearing is fine, he responds to age-appropriate questions like "Where's your nose?" and he adds at least a word a week to his vocabulary and uses some short phrases, you can enjoy his unique pronunciation without worrying. Try to create an environment in which your toddler enjoys expressing himself. It's more important for him to speak comfortably before he speaks correctly. Raising a good communicator means teaching your child that talking is spontaneous and fun. To do so, provide a running commentary while you go about dressing, bathing, and eating: "Now we put on our shirt" or "Let's wash our hands." Use lots of eye-to-eye and face-to-face contact.

Body language is also a big part of how your toddler communicates, and it should be encouraged. If he points to what he wants, follow up with words like "So, you want a cookie?" If he motions to the sky and utters "buh," expand on his comment with "Yes, that's a bird." He'll know that you understand him and won't be frustrated -- the biggest setback to the development of a natural, self-assured speaker.