Communication - What might my toddler do?

Understanding language is far more important to your toddler than actually speaking it. Once they really understand, they will communicate with you. Your toddler’s first words are almost always labels (ie: names for people, animals) or other things that are important to them.

As a toddler, your child will have a language explosion – they will understand more than they say, but they will imitate everything they hear, learn new words every day, start putting words together into short sentences and want to talk to you all the time!

The following are guidelines, taken from a number of sources. They will help you know what to expect and encourage next with your child’s language development, or when to consider a referral to a speech language therapist. It does not include everything and it is important to remember that there is variation in children’s language development. If you have any questions or concerns however, do not hesitate to call a speech language therapist.

Milestones for your toddler at 12-18 months:

  • Recognizes his or her name

  • Understands “no”

  • Understands simple instructions

  • Points and gestures to call attention to an event or to show what they want

  • Imitates (copies) familiar words

  • Waves good-bye and plays Pat-a-Cake

  • Uses “mama” and “dada” and several other words, usually names of objects or people

  • Attempts to communicate by mixing jargon with real words (e.g. babbling that sounds like real words)

  • Vocalizes for enjoyment

  • Points to show you something

  • Points to a few body parts when asked, ie: “Where’s your mouth?”

  • Imitates animal sounds

  • Begins to show sense of humour

  • Plays best on their own; doesn’t want to share toys with others, shouting “mine, mine!”

Red Flags:

If your 12-18 month old toddler shows 2 or more of the following, contact the centre or make a referral to a speech-language therapist to ensure your child is not having difficulties with developing communication skills:

  • Does not respond consistently to their being called by name

  • Does not respond to familiar sounds (phone ringing)

  • Does not look at or point to objects and pictures when named

  • Does not show or give objects spontaneously

  • Does not start a turn taking game (i.e. lifts up their blanket for peek-a-boo)

  • Does not direct others' attention to something by pointing or making eye contact

  • Does not use consonant + vowel combinations that others recognize as words, even if they are mispronounced

  • Has fewer than 10 words

Milestones for your toddler at 18-24 (1½ - 2 years):

  • Uses 10 - 20 different words

  • Starts to combine 2 words (e.g. baby sleep)

  • Uses words to make needs and wants known, like "more", "up", "juice"

  • Imitates sounds and words more clearly

  • Points to objects and/or uses gestures to show or direct attention to something

  • Points to own toes, eyes and nose

  • Brings an object from another room when asked (follows 1-part directions)

  • Sings simple songs

  • Mixes real words and jargon

  • Practices words over and over on thier own (e.g. while playing in their bed etc.)

Red Flags:

If your 18-24 month (1½ - 2 year) old toddler shows 2 or more of the following,  contact the centre or make a referral to a speech-language therapist to insure your child is not having difficulties with developing communication skills:

  • Does not understand verbal instructions without needing gestures

  • Does not copy (imitate) words frequently

  • Does not sit for 5 minutes of book reading

  • Does not add gestures if their words are not understood by others

  • Does not say at least 20 - 50 words

  • Does not say a few 2 - word or 3 - word combinations