Complete Guide for a 2 Year Old Not Talking

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If you have a 2 year old that is not using words yet, you are probably getting a lot of different feedback about what to do next.

Some people will tell you that a 2 year old not talking is nothing to be worried about. Meanwhile, others might point out that their 2 year old can speak in short sentences or even tell stories.

It really is wild how much difference there can be between two kids of the same age! Read on to find out whether it’s a problem, what to do next, and how you can help.

Is it common for a 2 year old not to talk?

A 2 year old that isn’t talking might be more common than you think. Researchers estimate that between 10-20% of 2 year olds fall into the “late language emergence” category. (Late language emergence is a term used to describe a child who is delayed in language with no other disabilities identified.)

Late language emergence can mean your child is behind in understanding others and/or communicating what they want.

Receptive language is what children can understand, while expressive language is what children can say or communicate. Some 2 year olds have difficulty both understanding what you say and using their own words to say something. However, some 2 year olds understand everything, but they aren’t talking.

If your child doesn’t understand simple words and commands (like “go get your shoe”) then they need to work on understanding before they will be able to use words. Check out my post here about what skills you can work on right now.

little girl_2 year old not talking

When should I worry about my 2 year old not talking?

By age two your child should say at least 50 different words and/or use at least three two-word phrases (like “hi mom”, “go bye”, and “up please”). If your child is not doing this, you should talk to your doctor about your concerns. There are other important milestones, but these two skills are a quick and easy way to help you know if your child might be a little behind or not.

Another thing to consider is whether or not your child is making progress. If you feel they aren’t understanding more, or if they never produce new words, that is another red flag. Some children might not quite have 50 words by age 2, but if your child is gaining new words weekly, then you don’t need to worry.

Speech and Language Development for a 2 Year Old

Below is a great table that covers 2 year old language development.

There are two columns to help break down your child’s skills. As stated above, receptive language is what a child understands, and expressive language is what a child can say or communicate. This is a list of milestones that most 2 year olds should be able to master.

Receptive LanguageExpressive Language
Points to two or more body partsUses a lot of new words
Follows one-step directionsCan use the sounds p, w, m, b, and h in words
Understands simple wh- questionsAble to name common pictures in a book
Attends to simple stories and songsAsks simple who, what, and where questions
Can point to common pictures in a book when namedPuts two words together to form simple phrases

What should I do if my 2 year old isn’t talking?

Get an Evaluation

The difficult part about a 2 year old not talking is that some children might start talking a lot when they are 25 months, or 28 months, or 31 months. There is no way to know when (or if) your child will start talking more.

Because we don’t know when each child will start understanding and talking more, it’s a good idea to get an evaluation done by the early intervention program or doctor.

The evaluation will have one of three results.

  • 1. Your child does not qualify for services and the professional or team of professionals is not concerned about your 2 year old’s speech and language.
  • 2. Your child does not qualify, but there are some concerns. In this case, the professional might ask that your child come get re-evaluated in the next few months.
  • 3. Your child qualifies for services, and they get the help they need.

We know from a great body of research that early intervention and support is a huge benefit for children that are delayed in any developmental area. Thus, getting your child tested now is a great option!

Check out my article about what to expect in a first-time speech and language evaluation for your toddler. 

At-home tips for late talkers

If your child does not meet the criteria above, I suggest you look into getting an evaluation. However, some people may be hesitant to do this for a variety of reasons.

If you are not ready to get an evaluation for your toddler, I have a few things you can do to help them progress in their language development.

  1. Choices! Even when you know what your child is asking for, give them choices between two things. If they want milk, instead of just giving it to them, say “Do you want milk or water?”. This will give them more opportunities to use their voices.
  2. Wait! Ask your child a question and give them 3-5 seconds before you say anything else. Sometimes they just need more time to process.
  3. Make it fun! Set up a play time where you use the same word to get a desired action. For instance, have a car that you are playing with alongside your toddler. Repeatedly say, “Ready, set, go!” and then make it zoom off. After you’ve done this several times, you can hold the car and say, “Ready, set….” and wait for your child to say it.
For a more in-depth explanation on my favorite tips for late talkers, check out my article here! 

If you are in need of more tips or help, consider joining my Facebook group! Parents and caregivers can join and ask specific questions and get help from a variety of professionals.

2 thoughts on “Complete Guide for a 2 Year Old Not Talking”

  1. Hi there. Going through this article reminds me of my cousin’s little son who’s still struggling to speak even though he’s two already. Fortunately, you reassured us by suggesting that such a phenomenon is not that uncommon anyway. Still, it would be better if his parents bring him to see a professional for some early intervention programs.

    1. Yes, if the two-year-old isn’t talking it would still be good to get an evaluation! But I’m glad you were reassured to realize that it happens to a lot of kids. I hope he gets the help he needs!

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