At age one year, most toddlers show signs of eagerness to talk. They begin to interact with you and try to communicate through gestures, facial expressions, and sounds. In fact, communication attempts can begin as early as 9 months, says speech pathologist Kimberly Scanlon, also author of the book, “My Toddler Talks.”

Talk to Them

To encourage toddlers to talk, you must first start talking to them on a regular basis. Kids first initially develop their comprehension of simple, basic language before they can talk. “In order to produce speech, a child must first be able to cognitively comprehend simple language. Then a child learns how to express his or her ideas verbally,” says Heather Boerner, the owner of Chatty Child Speech Therapy in New York City.

So, often talk to your kid in basic language and augment that with gesticulations and facial expressions. This combination helps explain to a toddler what you mean to say. With repetition over time, kids begin to understand what you’re trying to tell them. For instance, point a finger to a ball and say “ball” at least three times. Play with it a little to fascinate the kid and then hold it to him and say again, “ball.”

In time, when you tell the kid, “ball,” he or she would turn to it and probably point to it and even say, “ball” or “bo.” [INPOSTLB]

Imitate Baby Talk

Sometimes, you need to imitate their baby talk, just enough to make them feel like they are able to strike a conversation with you—encouraging them to keep talking—and be inspired to go on talking. Then mix that with basic language. Make it about 75 to 80 percent basic language and 25 to 20 percent baby talk. This encourages your toddler to enunciate words and coordinate his tongue with his teeth and lips to form words.

Later, you’d find your toddler able to clearly communicate with you using sign language, facial expressions, gestures, and even some 4- to 6-letter words—dada, papa, mama, no, yeah or yes, water, milk, play, and outside, among other words.

Watching Conversational TV Shows

It will also help to let toddlers watch conversational TV shows or those whose characters talk to kids watching them on TV. These interactive kiddie shows help prod kids to respond back to them verbally or show them how to do it. Examples are Blues Clues and Barney. A word of caution though—never let your kid watch TV alone. He or she always needs you to be there for support and guidance.

Use all tricks available to you, from baby talk to sign language, to help your baby talk more. It will all be worth it in the end, especially when you hear them utter their first words.