Toddlers and Gibberish

toddlers and gibberish

If your toddler speaks gibberish, nonsense words, their own language or whatever you would like to call it, you are probably intrigued and wondering how long it will last. It is certainly cute at first, but if it persists too long it can set off warning bells.

When does gibberish start?

Gibberish is your toddler’s attempt to imitate your speech and language.  This usually starts as early as 6 months with typical babbling, continuing and increasing up to a year old, as they develop their first words. You will see a lot of experimentation with sounds, imitation, blowing bubbles and attempted singing, and then a decrease in gibberish as they progress from 1 to 2 years. From age 1 there will be an increase in words you know and understand, and often you will recognize a word that others do not. If the same combination of sounds is used consistently for a specific item or action, it is regarded as a word e.g., booboo for hurt.

What should you do?

You will notice your toddler mixing their own language together with real words after 1 year of age.  When you hear the real words, reinforce this by emphasizing the words they have used and repeat it back to them. For example, if you hear “mama wawamoo tata vroom”, say “yes! Mama went to the shop in the car. Now I am back home, hello!”.  Toddlers will often use a lot of their own language when “reading” books, telling a story or pretending to be on the phone. Try and be animated and use different tones of voice when communicating with your child or reading stories to them, this makes it interesting and motivates them to copy you.

Should your child be speaking purely in their own language, model what you think they mean even if it means guessing!  Use simple phrases and a slow pace when doing so.

When should gibberish end?

As a guideline by 2 years of age toddlers should be understood by strangers at least half of the time.  This means there should be more words and phrases and less gibberish in order to be understood. As a general guideline, children should have 50 to 250 words by age 2 and be speaking in two-part phrases. Progressing from 2 to 3 years, they should be using nouns as well as some verbs and adjectives. They should ask questions, state their name and follow two-part directions (e.g., pick up your shoes and put them in the cupboard).

If you feel your child has persisting gibberish and you want to try and speed up the development of new words, do give my home program for under 3’s a try. A language development home program is also available for those whose language needs refining. All details available on: www.speechwithsumayya.co.za under the shop tab.

If your child has a language delay and you start hearing gibberish emerging after using a home program or starting physical intervention, this is a positive step and should lead to development of new words.


Written by Sumayya Vayej – Speech Language Pathologist

IG: @speechwithsumayya

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