9 Important Skills Required To Improve Speech In Toddlers

Even before they are old enough to start speaking normally, there are certain skills required to improve speech in toddlers, which will help them not only to speak but also phrase proper sentences or even tell stories as they grow.

These nine skills are basically behaviours, which together form the strong foundation on which toddlers can build their speech and language abilities.

In this article:

  1. Responds to situations
  2. Responds to people
  3. Span of attention
  4. Joint attention
  5. Plays with toys
  6. Understands simple gestures
  7. Vocalises
  8. Imitates actions, gestures and words
  9. Initiates interactions

After you go through the nine skills required to improve speech in toddlers, it suggested that you to also have some idea about the early signs of speech delay and the common causes of speech disorders in young children.

1. Responds to Situations

Your little one reacts if a door or window bangs due to a sudden wind or when she hears your sudden cry out of pain because you hit your toes on one of the legs of your furniture.

She basically is sensitive to her surroundings and situations and you can clearly see it through the expression on her face or a tremble in her body.

2. Responds to People

Whether someone calls her with a friendly voice or with an angry voice, she responds to people and situations around her.

And when she does, you not only see her acknowledging the person, you also see her observing their face and trying to understand how friendly or angry the person is and will accordingly respond and behave further from that moment on.

3. Span of Attention

Though kids are basically bundles of energy and are generally active, the attention span in most of them are relatively low. A normal growing child is expected to have an attention span of 3 to 5 minutes.

If it’s longer than say 6 or 7 minutes, it clearly indicates they’re thoroughly enjoying the activity – be it doing something or observing something, which is indeed great.

4. Joint Attention

When she plays with you, or anyone for that matter; you find that she is paying full attention only to the play.

For example, if you’re playing with her with a ball rolling it back-and-forth, and if you see her looking at you, and then the ball, holds it, pushes it towards you and repeats the same; then she’s in the moment and is sharing joint attention with you.

5. Plays with Toys

First things first, playing with toys, be it traditional or conventional, is important for children. After their parents, playing with toys is how children learn. Playing with toys, they learn to problem-solve and they also learn cause-and-effect.

Children should be playing with toys not only to be curious and find out how they work but also know the way it is to be used.

Most important of all, they should also pretend-play with them as well. For instance, if your child is playing with a car, she should roll it back-and-forth on the floor and pretend like driving making ‘vroom’ sounds and rolling its wheels all around.

Instead, if a child is only fiddling it or just spinning its wheels, that’s really not playing and it can’t be called play. And unless they play, the do not learn, and the same translates as they grow up and when they’re grown up.

For young children, playing is not just ‘play’ but is in fact a developmental activity. There are more than 20 simple yet effective activities to language development in infants and toddlers, which are covered in this article.

6. Understands Simple Gestures

Whether someone extends their hand and wave their palm to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Bye’ or points something to her with the intention to make her look at it, she should follow, understand and respond to such gestures.

As adults, we can understand whether a child is not understanding something or doesn’t want to do something by observing their reaction/response or body language.

If they are just sitting still, staring off into space or don’t even seem to have noticed, that can be a matter for concern.

7. Vocalises

Kids babble when they are fairly young, which turns into real words over time. As parents therefore, before you expect those real words, you need to be hearing sounds coming out of your child. Not just some random sounds when she is having fun, but sounds that she makes with an intention.

They may seem like some random sounds, but it should be such, that they are ‘sound’ enough for you know if she is happy, cranky or even hungry. Simply put, you should make out what’s in her mind.

8. Imitates Actions, Gestures & Words

As a young toddler, may be her words are not yet there but that’s why she should be able to demonstrate gestures and actions along with her intended words – if not actual words.

For instance, if she’s hungry, she should bring her fingers together and point them to her mouth or her belly. If she’s angry, she should shout and throw her hands haphazardly with clenched fists.

Talking about actions, she should copy actions like clapping, waving bye or blowing a kiss or even subtle things like keeping her index finger on her chin to show she is ‘thinking’. Basically, she should be able to pay attention to you and copying our actions, gestures and also words.

9. Initiates Interactions

This is one of the most important skills she should be able to demonstrate as a child, especially to the ones that are close to her.

You should often see her coming to you on her own, try to get your attention, vocalise what she wants to say, like wanting you to join her play, or express how she feels, be it excited, angry, bored or hungry.

These behaviours show that she is interested in you and want’s to share things with you, therefore expressing her intention to bond with you.


As mentioned in the beginning, these important skills required to improve speech in toddlers are basically behaviours that are expected to be demonstrated by the child.

Children can only demonstrate what they learn. When it comes to learning in children, if there is one thing that parents should always remember, it is this: Children learn what they see.

As parents therefore, if you want your child to acquire the above skills, the best source and the best people they can learn from – is you! So when you demonstrate these skills yourself, you don’t have to teach them to her. She will learn them anyway.

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.