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Speech Developments

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 29 months old. How strong should his vocabulary be at this age? He does not speak in full sentences. He usually says things like "Come", "Follow Me", "Stairs" for going up stairs. "Side" for wanting to go outside. He can repeat quickly many things he sees and hears from us or from TV. He is my first child so I am wondering about what is normal - if normal exists.

A: As parents of the first child, it is very normal to be anxious about every development of the child. Your son seems to be pretty normal for a 29 month, so there's nothing to worry about. A rough guide for a 24-month is as the following (perhaps a little more advanced than the following guide as your son is 29-months):

  • Able to name a number of objects common to his surroundings.

  • Able to use at least two prepositions, usually in, on, under.

  • Combines words into a short sentence-largely noun-verb combinations.

  • Approximately two-thirds of what child says should be intelligible

  • Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words.

  • Rhythm and fluency still often poor.

  • Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled.

  • Able to use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused.

  • Responds to such commands as "show me your (e.g., parts of the body: eyes nose, mouth, hair)".

For parents, it is very common to measure our toddler's verbal abilities against those of other children of the same age, but try to avoid doing this as there is more variation at this time in language development than in any other area. Some preschoolers develop language skills at a steady rate, others seem to master words in an uneven manner and much later. This certainly does not indicate the level of intelligence; more verbal children are not necessarily smarter or more advanced than the quieter ones. As a general rule, boys start talking later than girls, but this variation, like most others mentioned above, tends to even out as children reach school age.

Just by listening and practicing, a child is able to master many of the basic rules of grammar by the time s/he starts school. No formal instruction is necessary at this stage. Perhaps you can help enrich her vocabulary and language skills by making reading a part of your everyday routine. At this age, children may have a hard time listening for long, so make sure the books you read to your child should be short. If nothing else, just enjoy your son's growing and allow him to develop naturally.


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