I get asked this question weekly by a friend or parent and there are many, many things you can begin to do to get speech moving forward!
Should you be concerned if your 2 year old has no words? Well, he should be beginning to say some words or approximations, so try a few of these ideas for a month or so, and if you do not hear any improvement or increase in the variety of sounds, then call a speech-language pathologist in your area. Your child may just need a boost to get their speech and language moving forward.
First, write down what your child does say. This is usually /ah/ /oo/ and some simple things like /mama/ /dada/ or whatever he calls the family pet! I give total credit for a word if your child says /ju/ for /juice/ or /ba/ for /ball/. You may be pleasantly surprised that your child has more words then you think when you begin to write them down.
The second thing I would begin doing is helping your child move his mouth. Use some whistles, blow some cotton balls across the table, and start talking to your child using a TON of exaggeration! Physically give your child some input/touch on his face with a washcloth and move his lips down, up and back and forth. Children love to blow raspberries with their lips! Blowing bubbles is a great way to get increase breath support.
A great way to get language flowing is to pair simple sign language with an easy word. Focus on easy, frequently occuring (the more it happens the more you can practice!) words: me, more, and all done.
Don’t be scared of using sign language! Your child will drop the sign when they no longer need it to communicate.
Start with more. Simply put both of your hands together in front of you and show your child the sign with VERY exaggerated speech “MMMMOOOORRREEE.” Your child will think you are very silly, and you are -- but it works, and he is now watching you.
Set up situations when your child has to say/sign “more” to get a desired object. I love to work on speech during meals, and this is why:
1) you are looking at each other face to face
2) you are working your mouth each time you eat
3) most people typically eat at least 3 times a day so that means you will practice 3 times!
So, give your child a small amount of foods they love, and then model and say “more”. Each time you give more food, remember to give small amounts so that he will have to ask for more. You will be shocked when your child begins to sign it back to you! Do the same thing with /me/ (tap your palm of your hand to your chest) and /all done/ (both hands open at sides with palms facing upward).
Another way to get children to start labeling items and talking more is to practice on some words. I know, I know. Many books say “do not practice flash cards,” but many times they do work to promote some words into a child’s language repertoire.
Look at the list of what your child says and try to build on that repertoire. Does he say /baba/ or /mama/ or /papa/? If he says any of those sounds, take the sound that he does say and go with that sound.
For example, if your child says mama, then pick three to five EASY, ONE SYLLABLE /m/ words to practice. Yes, I mean make some /m/ cards! Make a card of me (with child’s photo); mama, milk, more. Do the same thing if your child say the /b/ sound or the /p/ sound. (example, ball, bath, boat, bee, bug, baby or pop, pig, potty)
IF your child does not say any consonants, than begin with the sign language info above emphasizing me, more and all done.
Let me know how this works for your child. Your child will be so proud of himself the first time he signs or says a new sound. Make sure you are overly excited and make a huge deal of it!