Language and Cognitive Development

Seeing your toddler testing out a few words and sounds is one of the most fascinating periods in parenthood. It's incredibly important to create an encouraging and stimulating environment at this time to foster enthusiastic talking and develop speech and language.

What can my toddler understand?

Your toddler is able to understand language before they are ready to respond to you verbally. The challenge for your toddler is not understanding speech, but the physical mechanism of talking itself - coordinating their lips, tongue and breath to produce the correct sounds for speech is a daunting task for a toddler to master.

What can I expect over the months?

12-15 months

You can expect babbling and gestures, such as lifting their hands towards you when they want to be picked up. Remember that your toddler is learning from and imitating their environment, so encourage their babbling and present many opportunities for them to listen to speech to motivate them to speak more.

15-18 months

At this age, some toddlers will insert words and high pitched tones in between their babbling. Your toddler might know the words needed to communicate, but instead react using gestures like listening and pointing. For example, you could say, Where did I put the spoon I was using to feed you your Purity?' and your little one might point to a spoon or bring you one. This is also the time when they respond to commands, like, No, don't write on the wall, listen to mommy.'

You may have a few laughs as your toddler starts to become aware of sensations like hot, cold, hard and soft and express their likes and dislikes towards them. This is a good time to label and describe what it is they're having strong feelings about to provide them with the vocabulary to express themselves verbally.

During this time you may want to avoid baby talk and use normal speech as your toddlers are learning and imitating what they hear from you. If your toddler uses baby talk, correct their language mistakes in a positive way by repeating the phrase with the correctly pronounced words and grammar. For example, if your toddler says, Woa woa run', you would say, Yes, the dog is running.'

18-24 months

Your toddler should be linking two words together to form a simple sentence. For example, your toddler might say dog play', which signals I want to play with the dog.' While their vocabulary is limited, your toddler is able to use their tone, gestures and body language to signal what they want.

At this stage you could stimulate your toddler's language by appealing to their imagination with creative play, reading, storytelling and listening to music with them. Limit their TV time and focus instead on talking and listening to each other.
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