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Why is my 3 year old not talking but understands everything? [Ans. from SLP]

Updated: Apr 1

3 year old kid laughing

Just like any other milestones, attainment of speech and language milestones can also vary in children. Before dwelling more in the topic for the blog, it is critical for the parents to understand that the developmental milestones are based on the average age at which most children attain them. It doesn't always happen that you child will attain them at that exact age, there can sometimes be a slight delay, if you suspect any such delay it can be very helpful to consult a specialist.

As a speech therapist, I often get approached by parents with the worrisome thought that, 'my toddler isn't speaking yet but seems to understand almost everything'. In today's competitive world, where children are sent to school at the tender age of 2-3 years, it can be quite bothersome for parents when their child lags in their speech development. In this blog I would like address speech delay in toddlers, it's causes, treatment, and few tips for parents to help their child overcome speech delay.

If your child understands everything but doesn't speak it is mostly because the child has developed receptive language appropriately for their age and may have an expressive language delay.

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Receptive language

Receptive language is a term used to define the understanding of language. It is the ability of a child to understand what others are saying to them. A child often develops receptive language first.

Expressive language

Expressing language is defined as the communication skill through which your child uses words to express their thoughts and ideas. Expressive language disorder is a condition that impacts the child's ability to use language to express themselves.

Causes of speech delay in a child:

There can be several reasons why your 3-year-old child is not talking. Some possible reasons can be hearing loss, neurological disorders like autism, intellectual disability, lack of language stimulation at home, cognitive delay, delayed motor and speech and language development, and developmental anomalies like cleft lip, cleft palate, short frenulum.

Speech and language delay in children is a common presentation affecting approximately 6% of pre-school children.

Speech milestones for a 3 year old toddler.

There is no rule as to when a child develops speech and language, it mostly depends on the innate abilities of the child, how stimulating their environment is, and the way others respond to it when a toddler tries to communicate. Here is a list of few speech milestones that a 3 year old is expected to acquire:-

Communication Milestone for 3 years old infographic
Image credit:-

Sometimes a child can catch up on his own if there is a minor delay in a certain milestone. However, if there is a significant delay in all the milestones you should visit a speech language pathologist/ speech therapist and get your child evaluated. This can be very helpful for the appropriate development of your child if timely diagnosed and treated, it can minimize the distress a child may feel after growing up due to speech and language issues.

How can you help your child develop speech at home?

The goal is to make speaking fun for your child, incorporate fun activities, reward systems, and positive reinforcement.

  • Ask your child to give directions. Follow their directions as they tell you how to build a tower of blocks.

  • Guessing game:- Have your child guess what you describe. Say, "We use it to sweep the floor," and have them find the broom. Say, "It is cold, sweet, and good for dessert. I like strawberry" so they can guess "ice cream."

  • Learn new words:- Say a new word, and tell them what it means, or use it in a way that helps him understand. For example, you can use the word "vehicle" instead of "car." You can say, "I think I will drive the vehicle to the store. I am too tired to walk."

  • Talk to them:- tell them about the story you read somewhere. When you go shopping, describe the objects you buy. Incorporate activities of everyday chores, as the child knows colors, you can arrange vegetables as per colors, wash the vegetables and put them in the fridge.

  • Ask open- ended questions like ‘what did you do at the park?’ rather than ‘did you have fun at the park?’, or something like ‘what swings did you play at in the park?’ as it gives them a chance to explain things in detail and listen enthusiastically to them.

  • Go for a walk:- pick up treasures like some stone you find of funny shape, some feathers, colorful leaves, and much more, and ask the child to describe it to the family.

  • Dance to various rhymes:- you can put various poems, or kids songs on television and dance and sing along with it. It will surely increase the interest of your child and also help them learn how to pronounce words correctly.

Please continue to use these strategies and let your therapist know what you have been trying and if you have noticed any progress in your child.

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Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at

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