Ways to Promote Speech & Language Skills – 24 – 36 months

Most people refer to this stage as the “terrible twos”, but we as speech therapists love the stage from 2-3 years old because children exhibit a huge burst in their language development! During this period, your children will also begin toileting, feeding themselves with a spoon and fork, and dressing. Cognitively, their problem solving skills are increasing as well as their attention span. This increased focus will lead to increased language development. Their fine motor skills are also developing and at this point they will be putting together basic puzzles and building/stacking with no difficulty. They will begin using a crayon and snipping with scissors. As for gross motor skills, it is definitely harder to keep up with them during this stage! They will be running, walking up and down stairs, and starting to throw and catch a ball.

Receptively, they will begin following basic two-step commands such as “Take this book and give it to mommy”. They will identify pictures in a book and several body parts without any gestures. At this point, they have a receptive vocabulary of about 500-900 words. Expressively, your child is beginning to produce 2-word phrases and later on during this period you will observe production of 3-4 word utterances.

Overall, you will se a rapid growth during this period of 50 to 250+ words! Their vocabulary will now contain a variety of words such as prepositions, different verb tenses (eg – running, ran), plurals (eg – birds), etc. In fact, they will be developing language so fast that parents sometimes observe dysfluencies where children often repeat words or phrases, so do not get alarmed! It is most likely not a stutter, but it is best to be sure by contacting a speech pathologist, especially if it is a frequent sound and syllable repetition. Also be mindful of your child’s sound production. The variety of sounds they are producing increases during this stage – you will notice more clear production of p, m, h, n, w, and b and children will begin producing a wider range of sounds in words including k, g, d, t, ing, f, and y. If he or she is having difficulty with specific sounds it may be due to phonological processes, which is your child’s natural way of simplifying sounds or words to make them easier to produce. For instance, your child may be leaving off the final consonant of words (eg – “pig” becomes “pi”). Once again it is best you reach out to a speech pathologist in your area to determine the severity of the articulation issue and if it requires remediation. And as always a reminder – every child is different and will develop language at varied rates and speeds. We encourage you to contact a speech-language pathologist if at any point you feel that your child may have a delay. Check out our ways to foster language development below!


  • Have your child request “my turn” to promote turn-taking. A great way to do this is by using problem-solving toys such as stackers, shape sorters, or puzzles with big knobs. Other fun sharing activities include bubbles, playing with a balloon, and play dough. Basic turn-taking activities, such as these, are building blocks to a more complex conversation. This is an excellent skill to practice during play dates!
  • Engage in fun and active games such as crawling through a tunnel, racing in the park, walking up and down stairs, and wheel barrow walking to target common 3-word utterances such as “Ready, Set, Go!” Promote action words by acting them out. For instance, get a ball and take turns throwing it. Have them say or imitate “throw ball”, “catch the ball”, etc. These activities not only work on increasing language, but they also increase overall gross motor strength!
  • Encourage varied production of verb tense such as present progressive (eg – walking, eating) and irregular past tense (eg – ate, slept) when reading a story or watching a movie. You may also talk about what is actually happening in front of them (or just happened) when they are in their stroller or at class. Ask questions such as “What is he doing?” or “What did she do?” to trigger the production of the correct tense. Make sure to provide verbal models if they are not yet able to answer independently.
  • Target plurals such as “dogs” or “cars” while outside. You can begin to ask “How many?” questions to encourage such answers. Provide a verbal model if your children are still using the singular version of words. It’s a great opportunity to introduce and practice counting as well!
  • Encourage symbolic play and creativity. At this point your children may pretend a banana is a phone. They will begin planning to engage in pretend play. Make sure to promote role-play by providing them with various props (eg – chef’s hat and wooden spoon for a chef, fireman’s hat for a fireman, etc.)
  • Since it is time to start toilet training, have your child request “bathroom” via 2-3 word phrases “Go pee pee”, “I need bathroom!”, etc.
  • Have your child request mealtime items using 2-3 word phrases since they are now drinking from a cup independently and feeding themselves (eg – “I want cup”, “I need spoon!”, etc.). You can create opportunities by purposefully withholding items (eg – keep the fork in the kitchen and present the macaroni & cheese without it to see if they will spontaneously request the fork).
  • Engage in fun art activities with an easel or while sitting at a table. Make sure their feet are touching the ground to increase body awareness. Have them request via 2-3 word phrases such as “I want crayon”, “Gimme stamp please”. It is a good opportunity to target colors as well and it of course simultaneously works on fine motor skills such as the basics of writing.
  • Continue your established reading routine and ask them to identify objects (eg – “point to BUNNY”), actions (eg – “point to the boy EATING”), and adjectives (“point the girl that is TIRED”) while reading to target following directions. Target 2-step directions during play such as “Take the cow and put it in the farm”.
  • Play more structured games such as Simon Says, which allows children to increase their attention span and practice identifying body parts.
  • Increase knowledge of prepositions such as “in” and “on”. You may take an empty bucket, bag, or box and place blocks “in” or “on” them. Say the prepositions while you do this and have your child imitate the word. Then, give your child commands with the target preposition (eg – “Put the ball IN the basket”) and have your child follow them in order to generalize the skill. Flap books are also great for prepositions!
  • Target parts of speech such as articles “the”, “a”, and “an” during story time or during natural situations such as playing in the park or walking down the street. For example, use emphasis when saying, “Look at the THE dog!” or “That’s A firetruck!”
  • Encourage production of sounds that come in during this period such as /k/ and /g/ such as “kite”, “goat”, “book”, etc. There are tons of opportunities to do this and you can make it fun by creating a game out of it. For instance, play a fishing game where your child can go fishing for every 5 words he labels or repeats! And you can gradually make it harder by putting the target words in short phrases (eg – “kite up”) and sentences (eg – “The kite goes up!”). Here are some great articulation activities from an excellent website called “Speaking of Speech” – http://www.speakingofspeech.com/Articulation_Materials.html