Is it normal to not understand toddler's speech?

Q: When my 2-year-old talks to me, I can't understand what he says. Is this normal?

A: 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

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