My 5-year-old daughter was a late talker. However, now, as I’m sure many parents can relate to, my child won’t stop talking. My daughter is a chatterbox. From morning till night, she talks, and talks, and talks.
All jokes aside, though, my daughter started talking later than expected, at around 2.5 years old. I chalked it up to the fact that she is bilingual, and bilingual children notoriously talk later. But once she started talking, she didn’t stop.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love how talkative she is, especially because most of the time, her talking has to do with her curiosity. She is constantly asking questions because nothing gets past her, and she wants to know what’s going on and learn. I also love hearing her little voice—whether she is singing or playing a game with herself—and I know parents of non-verbal children would relish hearing so much of their child’s voice.
But, now and then, I need some silence. I also want my daughter to know that she doesn’t always need to talk just for the sake of filling the air and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being quiet. Of course, I don’t want to hurt her feelings because I am aware that talking is still somewhat new and exciting.
As I suspected, being this talkative can actually be a good thing. We asked experts to weigh in on children who won’t stop talking—and offer some suggestions for parents who need a bit of peace and quiet. Here’s what they had to say:
What the experts say about talkative kids
Many language development studies suggest a positive correlation between early speech development in children and gifted children who excel intellectually in different areas later on, explained Theresa Bertuzzi, Chief Program Development Officer and Co-founder of Tiny Hoppers. Theresa also has two bachelor’s degrees in Child Studies and Education. “Generally, children begin speaking around 12-16 months and, by 18 months, have a small vocabulary and can respond or repeat when prompted. If your child is advancing through these steps or is very talkative by 2 years old, this is a very positive sign for their language development, especially if they are articulate and easily understood. Many toddlers are very talkative and ask a lot of questions around ages 3-4. If you notice your child rambles a lot about different topics, it is likely their preferred mechanism for thought processing, and it can also be a self-soothing tool,” Bertuzzi said.
How to teach our children when to be quiet
Bertuzzi explained that toddlers do well with a combination of verbal and physical cues that model behavior. If your child is rambling or asking a lot of questions in a space where you would like to teach them to be quiet, it is essential to take the time to explain, preferably before, and model the behavior when reminding them. Whisper your reminders to help them understand different noise levels, and use your hands to help gesture closing the mouth. Using the “zipped and locked lips” analogy is a popular one, as well as teaching them that when you do a certain gesture, you are indicating to them it is time to be quiet.
If your child is really struggling to stay quiet, ensure you make it an ongoing conversation. For example, speaking at home about why we can talk when a movie is on the TV but not necessarily when we are at the movie theater. Giving toddlers and young children full context around instructions for their behavior helps them to understand the why behind it and makes them more likely to remember. Positive incentives can also help when trying to enforce this type of behavioral change; just ensure you are not threatening to take something away but rather adding a reward they will appreciate.
Tips for parents whose child won’t stop talking
In my experience with a child who won’t stop talking, I have found a few “tricks” to get some quiet, so I’ll break it down along with advice from Gabriele Nicolet, a speech therapist and parent coach.
Let your child know that short sentences are OK
Model shorter, easier sentences without “dumbing down” the content. “Signal to your little one that it is perfectly OK for them to use short sentences,” explained Nicolet. “Especially when they’re getting tripped up on longer phrases, having you use shorter sentences that still get the job done shows them that they’re ‘allowed’ to do it too. The point is to have a range of communication abilities and to be able to use them when you need them.”
Create time to wait in conversations
Nicolet suggested creating “wait time” in conversations. Sometimes, when kids take a really long conversational turn, it’s because they’re sensing that they might not get another chance to speak for a while. It happens—people interrupt each other. But, for a toddler, interruptions can feel overwhelming, so see if you can cut down on the number of times that family members are interrupting each other during conversation.
Encourage quiet, independent play time
This is my go-to tactic. When I really need some quiet, whether I’m putting the baby to sleep or trying to work, I tell my daughter to have some quiet play time, either by doing a puzzle or playing with her dolls. I also have a little table that I’ve set up in the living room by the window that she uses to “work” when I’m working. She will sit there for up to half an hour coloring or painting in complete silence. I get my work done in peace, and so does she.
Having a talkative child can honestly be very mentally exhausting, especially because I never want my daughter to feel as though I’m not interested in what she has to say. I just sometimes need a break. Remember that our children are still developing. Listen to your children, but remember to model positive behavior for understanding when you need some quiet time and that everyone, once in a while, just needs some silence.