Car Games for Late Talkers…Great Ways to Maximize Your Commute with Your Late Talker

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Moms of late talkers frequently email me some version of this question…

“We spend lots of time in the car, especially waiting for my older children to be released from school and other activities. Do you have any ideas I can use during that time with my toddler who is not talking?”

Yes I do! Here’s my list of…

Car Games for Late Talkers

My BEST strategies for targeting language in the car with late talking toddlers are EASY. Start with this one…

1. Listen, listen, listen!!

Some late talkers are more vocal in the car than anywhere else. Maybe it’s the movement of the vehicle, maybe it’s the chaos of the older kids that provoke a toddler’s attempts to talk, or maybe it’s the one time of the day that a child who is always on the go is still enough for you to notice that he is beginning to try to talk!

No matter what the reason, listen!

What’s he trying to say?

If it’s a word you can make out, repeat it! Recognize and reinforce those early attempts. For example, if he says, “bu” when you’re parked beside the bus, say, “BUS! There’s the bus! You like that song about the bus. Wanna sing about the bus?” The launch into your best version of “Wheels on the Bus.”

If you can’t make out what he’s trying to say, but you think you know his intent, go with it! Give him the words he needs. For instance, if he sees his brother coming and starts to jabber, say “Hi! There’s (brother’s name). Here he comes! Hi (name)! Hi!!!”

If you don’t have a clue what he’s trying to say, that’s alright too. Many times late talkers are doing what other toddlers did at younger ages… practicing! They’re not really saying any true words yet, but they’re getting ready by vocalizing and practicing sounds and sound combinations. When this happens, say whatever it is that you think she might want to say, or use the next idea which can be super successful…

2. Imitate and Wait!

This strategy can be very powerful for toddlers who are usually quiet.

Whenever she makes a sound, copy her. Try to match her in every way you can – the same sound, same volume, and same intonation – as closely as possible.

Imitate her and then…


And wait.

And then wait some more.

Experts say that you should allow at least 10 seconds before offering a new sound with a late talker. Here’s why… late talkers often need more time to hear a sound, plan to say it, and then finally, to say it. Think about it this way… if imitating sounds were easy for them, they would already be talking. For whatever reason, it’s not. So we have to give them extra time. If we move ahead too soon, we cut them off before they’re ready.

Ten seconds can feel like an eternity for chatty-patty moms — and especially for super chatty SLPs! I, Laura Mize, a speech-language pathologist with almost 25 years experience, also have a problem waiting.

Sometimes I have to press my lips together as a reminder to keep my mouth shut while I wait. When it’s really hard, I count silently… 1 Mississippi…2 Mississippi…3 Mississippi… (an ode to my childhood home…)  

No matter how hard it is, waiting for her next sound is exactly what you need to do to entice a late talker to make another sound.

Let me add that waiting here is much different from waiting when a toddler has said nothing. (More about that difference in another post…)

If, after about 10 full seconds, she doesn’t try again, then repeat the sound she made or another one she can do and then…(you guessed it) wait some more.

Don’t just wait. Wait expectantly. Lean forward, widen your eyes, raise your eyebrows, and maybe even let out a little gasp.  Act like you know your child is going to say something. Granted, this is not as effective when a toddler can’t see you, but if you make this a habit when you are face-to-face, it will work, even when a child can’t see your face!)

You will be surprised at how these simple changes can make a big difference. It may take a little while to get going, but imitating and then expectantly waiting, will help many late talkers begin these fun little vocal duos with you.

3. Begin a Turn Taking Game of Your Own

A similar strategy is initiating a turn taking exchange, but not with words unless the child is already talking pretty well. Here, you’ll begin the routine with something you know the child can say. The cool part is, it doesn’t have to be a word.

Can your child fake cough? Try that! Here’s how…


Briefly check to see if your child is listening and watching, then cough again.


Cough again. Maybe this time, clear your throat too. Or cough bigger.

Try it several times before moving on to a new sound.

BUT… if he imitates the cough, keep it going! See how many rounds you can get in before one of you drops out.

Then try a new sound… like an animal noise she can already do. Or a whine. Or a loud grunt. Fake cry. Pant. Pretend to sneeze. Click your tongue. Make kissy noises. Or even let out a little scream.

The key here is to get a toddler to be NOISY and TAKE TURNS.

Both of those foundational skills are extremely important for late talkers, and now you’ve given yourself a new way and a new time to work on them!

I’ve got some other car games for late talkers who are just beyond this phase. Here’s part 2:

Car Games Part 2



Can’t wait until then for ideas? My first DVD Teach Me To Talk will teach you how to get started!


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Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

Dear Laura,

Thank you for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge in such a clear and enthusiastic way.

As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

It works!! He went from barely verbal, no gestures, didn't respond to his name etc etc to a verbal, social, curious, ready to imitate anything, fill in the blanks on familiar "set" speech, generate his own totally appropriate and mostly understandable sentences...not just short phrases anymore... full little paragraphs...about imaginary things, what he did during the day, what he wants. True communication!

You make a powerful difference in this world! ❤

With gratitude,

"Laura Mize, you are a Godsend. I don’t know how one human can have so many helpful things to say in a beautifully organized way, so often. Always amazes me when another super helpful email comes from you, and for free. With free YouTube videos and cheap CEUs. THANK YOU!!!"

Sheila, Canada

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."


"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"


"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"


"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."


"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"


"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."


"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."


"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."


"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"


"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"


"I just really appreciate your courses! I have two new clinicians that I’m working with and have recommended these courses to both of them. I’ve watched quite a few and have learned so much about serving this population. To be honest, before I started implementing your strategies I was a little frustrated with the lack of progress. My skills with engaging these little ones have improved so much! Thank you so much for making these CEUs so valuable!" C, SLP