Speech Milestones: Can Your Toddler Say These 25 “Must-Have” Words?


Was your kid’s first word “mommy” or “daddy”? Or were they babbling and somehow formed a word? No matter what happened, the good thing is your kid had hit the first baby talk milestone.

By age two, your child probably becomes chattier, stringing together a few words like “banana,” “all gone,” and “bye-bye.” It turns out that they aren’t just being cute—they’re showing off essential language skills. Sure, they can’t still say (or even understand) complex phrases like “luxury garden room interiors” or “the dog ate the bone reluctantly.” But by this stage, most children use 25 words or more and simple phrases like “more milk” or “bye-bye now.”

Researchers from the Child Institute at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania have even revealed a list of 25 words your two-year-old kid should know. Considered the building blocks of a child’s vocabulary, these 25 “must-have” words have become a device to test the speech development of a toddler. This list includes “dog,” “cookie,” “bath,” “mommy,” “daddy,” “banana,” and more.

But what if the child fails to speak all of those words? Does it mean the kid has speech problems?

Late Talkers are Normal

Lead researcher, Professor Leslie Rescorla, stated that if a two-year-old doesn’t use most of the “must-have” words, this may mean they are a late talker. But, there are exercises that a child can do to overcome their speech delay. So, parents should not be too worried about it, as many late talkers are simply late bloomers. After all, children learn and develop at a different rate. Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four, but he turned out to be one of the world’s most brilliant minds.

What if the child struggles for words at age five and above? Will they eventually grow out of it?

When Late Talking Becomes a Concern

bonding with child

While toddlers who are late talkers are typical, school-age children who still struggle to form words, phrases, and sentences become a concern. Some parents think it’s not that big of a deal, that their six-year-old kid will eventually catch up. While it’s true that half of the kids catch up during preschool, other researchers found that if you follow late talkers to middle school, they are likely to score below their peers on language and literacy tests. They eventually catch up, but they might not ever be as good at language as others who never had a speech delay.

If you’re a parent of a five or six-year-old kid who still has speech or language issues, you can:

  • Get your child’s hearing tested. Make sure your child is hearing properly because it’s difficult to form and comprehend words if they have hearing impairment in the first place. You may also want to consult with a speech-language pathologist. They can measure your child’s expressive and receptive language skills and suggest a developmental plan.
  • Pay attention to other behaviors. Besides language, other behaviors of a child can provide important clues to their development. Can your child follow simple directions? Can they communicate with gestures or make sounds? Do they pretend play? These all point to your child’s level of expressive and receptive language skills. You can share your observation with a speech-language pathologist or child psychologist.

There’s nothing wrong with being concerned and seeking the right explanation behind your child’s late talking. Just don’t let your concerns take over your chance to create beautiful memories with your child. Late talking may be a phase (or not), but your child is only a kid once.

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