2 at 2

As we move along the typical path of speech development, the next big milestone to expect – after the big single word boom we see between 11 and 14 months – is short sentences. There are a few things that need to happen before we hear the first “mama, up!”

But I need to define something first. A “short sentence”, in this context, is a group of words strung together to create meaning. We’re looking for children to combine words into novel phrases to express thoughts, and not to necessarily mimic or echo groups of words that they normally hear spoken together. Here’s an example: “Good morning” is a sentence that has two words, but these two words are typically spoken together. They are one common unit. If a grumpy toddler says “bad morning”, on the other hand, it’s likely they combined the words “bad” and “morning” to express a state. In that case, I don’t blame ya, kid… mornings can be rough!

We expect children to use two-word combinations at two years old. And this is a minimal milestone; many toddlers can – and do – say three-word combinations at two. Before they’re able to make these combinations, it makes sense that they need quite a few single spoken words in their inventory first. That magic number is between 75 and 80 single words. When a child has these, it’s not long before they’ll combine “more” and “milk” to say “more milk” or to combine the sign for “more” with the word “milk”. Remember, signs are words, too. 

As always: the number, richness and complexity of the words and sentences children say depends on the number, richness, and complexity of the interactions they have with real people and real things. The environment in which they are immersed matters… a LOT. For more tips and tricks to maximize language development, your Friendly Neighbourhood Speech Pathologist is here to help!


Mohamed (Mo) Oshalla, MHSc.,
Speech-Language Pathologist & Executive Director,
Ontario Speech & Language Services


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