Strategies On The Go: How to Encourage your Toddler to Use Their Words When They Request

At Treetop, our Speech and Language therapists have recently had a few parents ask us how to encourage their toddlers to use their words instead of crying for what they want or simply pointing and making an “uh uh uh” sound.

Here are some strategies to try:

  • Try to always get down to your child’s level to ensure adequate eye contact. This also helps your child know that they have your attention and you are listening to them
  • If you know what your child is requesting then you can try the following:
  1. Act confused and give your child the wrong item and see if they can then use the word for the item they really want
  2. Give your child a choice e.g. “do you want juice or water?”
  3. You can simply give the choice verbally, or pair the verbal choice whilst showing your child the items or you can pair your verbal choice with gestures.
  4.  If your child is not able to give you the word verbally after those attempts, then model it for your child “water, I want water”
  5. If you are at the level where you are having to model for your child, then we would highly recommend pairing what you are saying with gestures such as Makaton gestures or Baby Sign.
  • If you do not know what your child is requesting and they are not yet using words consistently, which it makes it more difficult as you are unable to provide a model, you can try to guess by their pointing what it is they want
  • If they are not yet pointing, then you will be working at this level.


It is important to respond to all and any communicative attempts your child makes, be it looking, gestures, sounds and/or words.


If you want to learn more strategies like the ones discussed above, then contact us to find out more about out parent and child sessions starting on the 5th February.


Treetop Speech and Language therapy, Singapore.