When I've been visiting nurseries, I have often come across children who use long strings of babble which often don't make sense. Sometimes you can hear the odd word thrown in for good measure, but mostly it's just jargon. This is a normal stage of development as children experiment with 'talking' and most children progress on to using real words pretty quickly. But if you have a child who gets stuck at this level, it might be because they can't deciper the words in what you are saying - it all just sounds like gobbledygook to them! 

I met an 18 month old who did just this and staff were concerned that he didn't ever use any real words. So I suggested one simple change to the way staff interacted with him and he started to use real words within 10 minutes of using this strategy!

Which strategy do you think it was of the ten simple strategies I have introduced?

The staff cut their own language down to one word at a time so he could imitate. And once he started to imitate one word, they added a word to what he was saying. When I went back the next week, he was putting two words together in little phrases and the jargon had stopped completely. 

It's sometimes hard to cut your own language down, especially if you are self-confessed chatterbox! But there's lots of ways to add one word. Here are 6 ideas to extend a child to two word phrases:

  1. Possession words - such as "my book, your turn, his car, mummy's tea, Grandpa's sock" 
  2. Descriptive words - such  as "dirty bike" "soft blankie" "tractor broken" (I tend to leave colours out of the equation as developmentally we expect those later. But if the child likes colour, then use that too.)
  3. Size vocabulary - yes, this is also a preposition but it's worth a category in it's own right, because it's an important developmental milestone - e.g. "big bear" "tiny ant" "huge egg"
  4. Action words - such as "dog's drinking" "Simon's running"
  5. Positional words - "up ladder" "down slide" "in the bin" "cat's gone"
  6. Social Greeting Language - such as "hello Daddy" "bye-bye toys"

You can see, sometimes you add the word after the child's word, sometimes before. It's good to mix it up! Here's a Handy PDF for you to download with examples and an observation exercise.

You can use this strategy during play-time, and any daily routine (tidy-up time? "bye trains" "in box") (laundry time? "dirty socks" "Catherine's top" "socks in") (snacktime? "my fork" "Mary's cup") and especially when reading a story. 

Homework for children at this language level: Go through a well-loved children's book and stick post-it notes on each page over the text. The choose two words to describe the picture you see. That's all the language you need to use when looking at a book together; it helps with their attention skills, enables them to copy the language model you give and aids their understanding.