#286 – 11 Skills Toddlers Use Before Words Emerge – #8 Vocalizes Purposefully


We’re continuing our series with the 11 skills toddlers must master before words emerge.

Today we’re talking about skill #8 – Vocalizes Purposefully. When I explain this to parents I describe this as “becoming noisy.”

This skill is necessary for EVERY child. None of us can talk unless we know how to produce sound purposefully! Some late talkers will already be doing this, but some may not, so let’s talk about how to help move a nonverbal toddler toward becoming more noisy.

I also spent a little time discussing reasons (or diagnoses) associated with limited vocalizing in case you need that background too.

Listen to the show below or at this link.

Summary of strategies I shared during the show to help a late talker learn to vocalize:

  1. Get moving! Children are more likely to vocalize when their little bodies are active!! Run, swing, bounce a kid on your lap, jump on the bed or couch. Try anything like this to elicit any kind of sound your child might make as he’s moving. Do anything you can to get some sounds!
  2. While the child is moving, you (the adult) should model more sounds and early vocalizations rather than real words.  So… how does that sound? This means that rather than talking, you scream, squeal, say single syllables (like “Oooooooooooh!” or “Duh” or “Yah”), and model play sounds (such as car noises, animal sounds). Think in terms of using sound effects, rather than words.
  3. Try vocalizing in a large space that echoes. I like to go in to a family’s empty garage or a large, open gym. Remember to model more sounds and less words! Yell. Laugh. Run around like a crazy person making all kinds of noise. Set the stage for a child to try to make noise too.
  4. Simulate “crowd noise.” This means having everyone talk, laugh or sing all at the same time when your child is present. Often times this helps a child “let loose” and begin to make noise, just like everybody else.
  5. Play with toys that amplify sound. Try those cheap $1 microphones, a paper towel roll, a funnel, pot or pan. Listen to the show for ideas and how to use this easy technique.
  6. Introduce games and songs that include easy, early vocalizations like yelling or a simple word like “Yay!” I sang my favorite version of this kind of song in today’s show : )

Remember… a child has to become noisy BEFORE she begins to talk!

Ready for the next show? Click here!



If you’re a therapist and need more specific ideas like this to use in sessions and share with families, check out my best resource for you – Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual. It’s filled with recommendations that match the goals/milestones for children developmentally under 12 months all the way to 48 months.

If you’re working with a child who isn’t talking and need a step-by-step guide for helping him learn to say words, I highly recommend my book Building Verbal Imitation in Toddlers. If you’re an SLP or another therapist and would rather take a full course on DVD (with continuing education credit!) outlining these strategies so that you can SEE how this looks with toddlers and preschoolers, I have one for you with this information Steps to Building Verbal Imitation Skills in Toddlers. 


If you’ve missed the earlier shows in this series, check them out below:

#275 Introduction Show – Why These Skills are Important

#276 Overview of Skills 1 – 5

#277 Overview of Skills 6 – 11

#278 Responds to Things in the Environment

#279 Responds to People

#280 Building an Attention Span

#281 Developing Joint Attention

#282 –  Developing Early Play Skills (part one)

#283 – Early Play  Skills (part two)

#284 Understands Gestures

#285 Understands What Words Mean (Follows Simple Directions!)


1 Comment

  1. mona sallam on May 15, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Dear Professor Laura. thank you for all your effort for autistic children and for my grand son, Your videos are a great help to me . Adam is progressing very well . I also would like to share with you the other help that I am getting , It is videos by : Babybumblebee site. Look them up and tell me what you think . I covered with Adam the vocabulary videos and the action videos and now I am doing the sentence videos. He repeats after these videos , but he still hasn’t reached the level of conversation. I read your book Building Verbal Imitation in Children and thank God Adam has covered all the vocabulary in that book. and I am still working on it. He has therapy every day at school , but I think that they are not moving forward enough. I you could give me more advice I would appreciate it. Many thanks

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