Parenting Assistance Line - PAL

Parenting Assistance Line
Your Child's Development | Discipline & Guidance | Health & Safety | Talking with Your Child
Handling StressParent SupportParent ResourcesFAQ'sContactLinks






Your Child's Development

Language Development


Most children say their first words between 12 and 18 months of age. These are usually repetitive sounds such as “Da Da, Ma Ma,” and “Bye Bye.” Your toddler can understand a multitude of words before he can actually speak them. You will observe this ability when he brings you something you ask for or while asking him to point to body parts.

Somewhere around the beginning of the second year (typically between 18 and 24 months) most children experience a language explosion! Your child should start forming 2-3 word sentences and have a vocabulary of about 50 words.

As you talk to your toddler…

  • Use ‘baby talk’ less and speak slowly and clearly. Teach him the correct names of objects.
  • Do not repeat his incorrect pronunciations. Listen to him as he tries to communicate and then say the word correctly.
  • Don’t make fun of his language mistakes and avoid correcting him. By reading, talking, and singing with him regularly he will pick up proper pronunciations.
  • And keep talking! The best thing a parent can do to encourage language development is to talk! Keep a running commentary of events during your daily routine. When you are shopping talk about the things you see and name the items you put into your cart. While you are driving, talk about what is around and what is happening!
  • Reading together is a wonderful way to build vocabulary. Ask him questions about the pictures he sees and give him a chance to respond.
  • Listening is very important. Make eye contact and reply to what he says. This will help him understand a crucial part of the communication process– taking turns.

Do not assume that your child will build an extensive vocabulary from watching children’s television or videos. There is NO substitute for engaging your child in conversation.

(Please note: The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television viewing for children under the age of two.)

Be patient and remember that every child is unique. Your child may not follow the typical timeline. Usually boys have a harder time mastering speech than do girls, but most often they do catch up.

Language Milestones by the End of the Second Year

  • Can follow simple instructions
  • Can name objects in his surroundings
  • Uses two to four word sentences
  • Recognizes names of familiar people, objects and body parts
  • Points to things that are named for him
  • Repeats words he hears daily
  • About 2/3 of his speech should be understandable
  • Vocabulary of 150-300 words
  • Use of “my” and “mine” are beginning to emerge

If you feel your toddler is not growing or learning in the way you expect, please talk with your pediatrician and/or call Alabama’s Early Intervention System for further assessment (800-441-7607).