12 to 24 Months
Though your child won't be talking by her first birthday, she already has a large listening vocabulary. By 18 months, she'll be speaking anywhere from 3 to 50 words. As her range increases, the meaning of each word will narrow. For example, "Mama"--which might have stood for "Pick me up," "I want a bottle," and "Give me that block"--will eventually just mean "Mama."
Easy Skill Boosters
Phase out baby talk. By 12 months, children are ready to hear the proper words for objects. Regular spoken language is the best model of adult conversation.
Read often. Weave stories into your everyday routine. For instance, read waterproof books before your child's bath, then let her play with them in the tub.
Guess the answer. Pause during a story, and pose a question: "I wonder what Goldilocks will do next?" Have your child guess, then read on for the answer. You'll be teaching him to think about what he hears, ask questions, predict events, and look for answers. Fluent readers do this quite naturally.
Don't stop at stories. Baking cookies with your child at your side? Read to her from the cookbook. Or bring in the mail together, and sort the envelopes out loud to show reading's limitless uses.
Get curious. Introduce the world as a source of interest and conversation by asking questions throughout the day: "Will it rain this afternoon?"
Serve up variety. Offer your child a rich, descriptive mix of language--eventually, she'll repeat whatever she hears.