Language development really takes off during this time,
especially as your baby approaches the second birthday.
Kids this age can better able to comprehend what is said to
them and express what they want. They take joy in their
ability to understand more complex directions - and won't
hesitate to give directions of their own.
How Babies Communicate
Most babies say their first words in the beginning of this
period, though some start even sooner and others don't start
until they're nearly 2 years old. A baby who is
preoccupied with learning to walk may push talking to the back
burner; it's not unusual and is nothing to be alarmed
Babies this age might have learned fragments of dozens of words
that probably won't be recognizable yet. When they
get around to talking, though, they'll probably progress
quickly and soon be able to point at something familiar and say its
name, and recognize names of familiar people, objects, and body
By 2 years old, babies may use phrases and even two- to
four-word sentences, although your doctor will only expect to hear
that your child is putting two words together.
No matter when babies say their first words, it's a sure bet
they already understanding much of what is said to
them before that. Your child should be able to respond to
commands ("Roll the ball to Mommy") and should be fully
aware of the names of familiar objects and family members.
You might find yourself struggling with your toddler to do as
you say, only to have him or her ignore you or scream in protest.
Toddlers like testing limits and their degree of control. By 18
months, most have mastered saying "no" with authority,
and by age 2 may throw a tantrum when they're unwilling to do
something. They'll also show signs of possessiveness - expect
to hear "mine" or see tears if something is taken away or
you show attention to someone else.
What Should I Do?
Your baby is listening to everything you say, and storing it
away at an incredible rate. Instead of using "baby"
words, teach your child the correct names for people, places, and
things. Speak slowly and clearly, and keep it simple.
Your baby may still be communicating with gestures such as
pointing to something he or she wants. Gestures are OK, but you
should use a running commentary such as, "Do you want a
drink?" (when he or she points to the refrigerator), then wait
for a response. Then say, "What do you want? Milk? OK,
let's get some milk." Such behavior encourages your baby
to respond and participate in conversations. But don't
frustrate your baby by withholding food or drink waiting for a
Between 15 and 18 months, your baby will probably begin to enjoy
language games that ask him or her to identify things, such as:
"Where's your ear?" and "Where is Mommy?"
Your child's vocabulary will grow quickly, but pronunciation
isn't likely to keep pace. Resist the temptation to correct
your baby's pronunciation; most babies mispronounce their
words. Instead, emphasize the correct pronunciation in your
Should I Be Concerned?
Some babies don't talk until their second birthday and
choose instead to get by with the use of gestures and sounds.
Vocabulary varies widely at this age, too; some babies say dozens
of words, others only a few.
Most babies this age have these communication milestones in
- speak about 15 words by 18 months
- put two words together to form a sentence by age 2
- follow simple directions by age 2
problems may become more apparent during this stage because of the
emergence of speech. Don't hesitate to report any
you have to your doctor immediately, especially if you feel your
child is not babbling or responding to your speech patterns.
can leave kids with excessive fluid buildup that can interfere with
normal hearing. Special tests can check for hearing loss.
Some parents worry that a toddler who is not speaking may have
. Children with autism and related conditions may have delayed
speech or other problems with communication, but poor social
interactions, and limited or restricted interests or patterns of
behavior are also hallmarks of the disorder. If you have any
questions or concerns about your child's development, talk with
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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