Language Development

18 - 24 Months

Speech development regains your toddler’s attention at about 18 months. From now through his second birthday, your child will probably acquire a speaking vocabulary ranging from 50 to 200 words. It’s important to note that these “words” may not be identifiable to others. For instance, your toddler may say “ha,” which you both know means “hat,” but may not be considered a spoken word by another listener. It qualifies as a word, however, because it is a sound that consistently stands for a particular object.

Picture books in which your child can point to pictures that you name are especially meaningful and enjoyable because they give him a way to convey his understanding of many words without having to pronounce them the standard way. He may not be able to say “horse,” but if you say, “Point to the horse,” he can readily do so. Opportunities to demonstrate his understanding reinforce his desire to talk. Conversations in which you ask,”Where’s your head?” or say, “Bring me your slippers” are thrilling to your
toddler because they prove to him that he’s now a partner in this communication game.

During this stage, your toddler will begin to put together phrases such as “more cookie” or “me down,” using nouns and modifiers in correct sequence. He may say only the most important words to get the meaning
across, leaving out “a” and “the,” prepositions such as “in,” and many word endings.

In addition to talking about his immediate experiences, your toddler may also begin to talk about things and people who are not present, again giving you insight into the more complex workings of his brain. For example, he may ask about a family member who is not at home, saying something like, “Where cat?” when he enters the living room and doesn’t see the cat on its usual perch on the sofa. At around 21 months, your toddler may construct two-word sentences, now using verbs and nouns or pronouns, such as “Me go” or “Mommy eat.” He may also begin to ask questions about the name of things and start to enjoy simple word games. Nursery rhymes with repetitive words and phrases delight him because he enjoys hearing familiar words over and over. At this stage, it becomes easier for your child to describe his feelings; he may try to tell you what is wrong before dissolving into tears. He may extend a hurt finger to you, saying, “Kiss boo boo” to let you know what he needs to feel better.

By age two, although actual vocabulary such as verbs and adjectives are still beyond his reach, he’ll speak in longer sentences, using his own words or jargon in a variety of parts of speech. He’ll become more adept at asking questions, not just to gain specific information, but simply for the pleasure of continuing a conversation with you.

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