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Is it normal to not understand toddler's speech?

When my 2-year-old talks to me, I can't understand what he says. Is this normal?
Submitted by Parents Team

Yes -- toddlers often muddle their pronunciation, and speaking clearly is difficult for a young child. There are nearly 100 different muscles in the vocal tract that need to be coordinated, and some children have a harder time than others. Listen carefully to your child's speech. If the sounds he makes are similar to real words and sentences -- saying 'Whareesha' instead of 'What is that,' for example -- he's probably just a little verbally clumsy. Exercises like blowing soap bubbles will help his coordination. However, if the sounds don't resemble the names of the objects or concepts at all, it's a good idea to talk to your pediatrician. --Natalie Walker Whitlock

Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the June 2000 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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I used sign language with my first son and found that he could communicate very early and clearly with me by using a combination of signing and speaking. He also learned that I needed to be watching him to understand what he was saying so he got my attention first. Signing with our second son was harder and never developed as fully. However having an older sibling helped my toddler learn to speak sooner and his speech is very strong, though still fraught with adorable mistakes.
Submitted by emily_mouse
My kids are bi-lingual, so sometimes I'm not sure if I've misheard what they are saying or they are mispronouncing something. When this happens sometimes I ask them to show me. Pointing can get a conversation closer on track.
Submitted by jchaustein-DE