Toddlerese is on its Way Out…

My Hula Girl is 2 months away from being three years old, and she is no longer speaking a whole lot of toddler-speak. It is bittersweet to hear her suddenly pronouncing all her /s/ sounds and integrating long difficult words without batting an eyelash. Language has never been extremely difficult for her, except that some people couldn’t understand her very well due to the absent onsets and the rapid rate of speech she’s accustomed to using (to keep up with her brain, no doubt).

There are a few things that are characteristic of kids her age as far as language goes. Here’s a checklist (found here) that describes toddler speech at Hula Girl’s age:

Significant Language Milestones

  • 200 word vocabulary – This milestone is reached anywhere between 19 and 30 months. If they don’t know 200 words by their second birthday, they will well before their third. They will continue to learn new words.
  • Using words – By the time they are three years old, your toddler will have a word they use for almost everything. It will not be a perfect, adult word, but will be consistent.
  • Simple sentences – By two years, your child will have put two words together. They will start to use three-word sentences during their third year. They will also be developing some grammar skills.
  • Types of words – Your two to three-year-old will start using more words that are not nouns. They will start to use simple words to describe objects, such as small or big. They will begin to use pronouns and will be using verbs.
  • Use of speech – Between two and three years of age, your child will make the transition from gesturing to using speech to ask for something or get your attention.
  • Understandable speech – By 30 months of age, the family should be able to understand your toddler’s speech.
  • Body parts – They will get even better at naming parts of the body.

If you know Hula Girl at all, you know she reached all these milestones before she turned two. So yeah.

Hula Girl is still somewhat difficult for “outsiders” to understand, namely because she is rather reserved when speaking with unfamiliar people for the first time. Also, she is a bit hard to understand when she’s talking on the phone, partially because she usually talks on the phone during meals and therefore has food in her mouth, and also because she doesn’t know to hold the phone close to her mouth.

She still struggles with the /l/ and /r/ sounds, which is unfortunate. She says /y/ for both (with one exception–see my first bullet under the next paragraph). She calls rainbows “yainbows” and lemons “yemons.” If a word has a consonant blend including /r/, like “great” or “bread,” she will just omit the /r/– “gate” and “bed.” When I ask her to say “L,” she says, “Ehh-oh.” “R” is pronounced, “Ahh-wah.”

She rarely mispronounces words other than her little idiosyncrasies with the /l/ and /r/ sounds. However, there are a few funny mispronunciations holding strong in her language, and I will cry the day she pronounces these words correctly:


  • Any word with a –ther ending is pronounced as though it says –bee-yer… This, ironically, is the only time she can say /r/ correctly! Examples of this are mother (muh-bee-yer), father (fah-bee-yer), and feather (feh-bee-yer). “Mommy, Daddy is taking me on a fah-bee-yer/daughter date!” Interestingly, she can say “leather.” 
  • Animals. Like, the word, “animals.” She says, “ah-moo-moos.” Always. “I want to go to the zoo to see the ah-moo-moos.”
  • Grammy and Grampy. These have varied throughout her life. She used to say Mimi and Maybe. Now she says Geemee and Gapey. (Omits the r in both!)
  • Little Bro/Little Brother. “Yeedoo Bo” or “Yeedoo Buh-bee-yer”

Why is it so hard for parents to hear their children learning to speak so clearly and so well? Maybe it’s like we’re losing our super secret, ultra-exclusive, no-one-outside-the-family-allowed club! Gasp! Maybe it’s another step toward independence! My daughter no longer needs me to translate her every thought! Soon she’ll be out in the world, talking to people without my help. No! ….. sigh.

This raising kids thing… so hard. It’s SO hard to let go.


  1. Kristy said,

    April 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Oh, so adorable. I love her mispronunciations! And my kids’ mispronunciations for certain words. Nick says “animals” similarly still. And the “w” sound for “l.”

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