Why is my 2 year old not talking yet in sentences?

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

2 year old not talking yet in sentences even though saying lots of single words?  A large expressive vocabulary burst is typically seen when a child is between 18 months and when they become a two year old. Once approximately 50 spontaneously spoken words are reached, toddlers tend to begin talking in 2 and 3 words sentences. The 50 words however have to come from a range of word categories from things (mum’s bag), actions (mum eat), describing words (yukky) to social modifiers (Ta, here, me, Hello) for sentences to emerge.

Expressive language in the baby period  is known for the start of the first set of clear words that can be functionally used by the baby to Express themselves. Expressive language in the toddler period is then about expanding this spoken vocabulary and it is the beginning of children joining words together to portray more meanings than single words on their own can do. If a two year old is not saying 2 words in a sentence or phrase they may be at risk of being a late talker.

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Some two year old children can have 50 or even 500 words but are still not using 2-words or 3 words in sentences. When this happens, it is important to consider:

Speech Intelligibility

Expressive language in the toddler period can be closely linked to early speech development. Some children find it difficult to build their sentences when people are not even understanding their single word attempts. Speech delays can impact on grammatical development which is an important aspect of expressive language development. For example, the /s/ sound is important for sentence development. The /s/ sound indicates how many (cat vs cats), ownership (Dad’s keys, tells us an action is happening “The boy’s running”). While two year old children might not be able to say the /s/ sound 100% correctly, they will often have an approximation of the sound to mark grammatical words.

Communicative Intent

One question to ask is whether the two year old or older child is using their spoken words for a range of social needs (e.g., asking questions, telling you things, commenting, rejecting, requesting objects, requesting actions). As social language builds the children need to develop sentences to help express their new ideas. If a child’s social language is not developing (e.g., early signs of autism) to age expected levels, they may not have the drive to build sentence skills.

The Type or Range of Words Being Said May Be Too Narrow

If a 2 year old or older children only say “thing words” (i.e. names objects such as nose, eyes, ball, cup, table, car) it is hard for them to formulate early sentences. You can express a meaning of ownership with two thing words (e.g., car key) however without action words, describing words, pronouns it is hard for them to build their expressive language skills. Just saying “ball” can not express as much even 2-word sentences (kick ball, my ball, bounce ball, big ball, where ball).

How can I check if these skills are developing enough to support a Toddler’s Expressive Language Skills?

  • Speech Development - Check out our speech sounds checklists here
  • Communication Intent - This is covered in our Speech Therapy Based Online Program FOCUS ON TODDLER TALK! 
  • Number & Range of Spoken WordsThe spoken word counter has pictures and videos that you can show your toddler to see just how many words they have. This online checklist will add up the number of words across a range categories so you can see if your toddler is using a range of words they can use to combine into sentences.
  • If you are concerned about a child’s expressive language development it is important to talk to your doctor, paediatrician and/or a child speech pathologist.
2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

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2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

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