Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How To Help Your Child Start Talking: Three Magic Words

There are three magic words that I carry around with me in my speech-therapy pocket to help children start talking. I use them frequently and with great success. These three words so often entice a non-talker to make the jump into the world of words that it's almost magic. What are these three words, you ask?

Ready, Set, Go.

Hmmm. With all that build-up, perhaps the actual words seem less magical than you had hoped? That's because, as with all things speech-therapy related, it's less about the actual words and more about how you use them.

The magic words are the most powerful when "go" is followed by something very exciting such as being tossed up in the air, chased around a room, pushed on swing, or sent down a slide. I also frequently use them while playing with a toy that's got some kind of build up-- I might say them before blowing bubbles, or when about to spin a top, or before pushing a car down a ramp, rolling a ball, or turning on a toy that's full of fun lights and sounds. Or, say, after my Baby Girl has crawled into a laundry basket and we've turned it into a boat that I push back and forth while singing "Row Row Row Your Boat."

The key is to find something your toddler loves and then use the magic words over and over right before the fun begins. As with all things toddler-related, consistency is the key. You may have to repeat these words hundreds of times before your toddler starts to use the word "go" on his own. So, don't expect magic results right away. Give him time and keep it lots of fun. Then, every so often, try pausing right before you say, "go." Pause long enough, and your toddler might just fill in the word....or he might not. If he doesn't, continue on with the fun. It'll work eventually. But if he does say the word, say it back to him with lots of enthusiasm and then carry on with the activity. He's now on his way to being a new talker... and that's when you'll see the magic really start to unfold.

Why does this work? Ready, Set, Go is a powerful tool for helping young children start to talk because the words fall into that all important category of an anticipatory set. This means that, when the words are used over and over in your child's day, he will start to anticipate what is coming. Use them often enough and the word "go" will just fall out of your toddler's mouth without him even knowing what he's doing. When that happens, he'll learn that language is a powerful key to unlocking the world around him, and he'll be that much more ready to start learning other new words as well.

The other benefit of "Ready Set Go" is that it helps your toddler learn that something good is coming....if he just waits a tiny bit. Young children are notorious for having a low tolerance for waiting. They want what they want, when they want it, which is often NOW. If you use Ready Set Go frequently enough, the words will become a cue for him to wait for just a bit; he'll hear them and know that something good is about to happen-- in just a moment. This creates what I call a "communication space"-- a little pocket of time between the time when a toddler wants something and when he actually gets it. When we create a communication space, we can then teach new words or signs within it.

Now that you've learned the three magic words, it's your turn to give them a try with your little one. Ready? Set? Go!

Want to learn more? You can follow my posts on Facebook at Facebook.com/ChildTalk

Have a question? I've got answers! Email me at childtalk01@yahoo.com


  1. I remember when my little one's favorite words were ready, set go! I loved it so fun for them. Thank you for sharing this post:-) I'm a new follower from Blog Frog.

  2. Yes! Totally agree. I even get excited when someone says it to me!

  3. Those magic words get JDaniel running across the yard.

  4. I'm stopping by from Mom Loop, and I'm glad to have found your blog! My 22 month old son is mildly speech delayed - he did not qualify for ECI, but is a couple months behind. We know that his receptive language is really good, so now I'm looking for tricks to encourage his expressive language develop.

  5. What a great idea - so simple and fun! I love the ideas you share through your blog! I'm your newest follower from Mom Loop! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  6. great idea - I'm using this for sure with my kids!

  7. Excited to use this with my 19 month old son!!

  8. We do this with "1-2-3!" Does that work, or is important to do ready set go specifically?

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