When Will My Child Start Talking?Important Speech and Language Milestones to Expect from Your 1 and 2 Year Old
As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I am often asked questions such as, “When will my baby start talking?” or “Is my toddler on the right track?” Parents frequently wonder whether or not their child is developing typically in terms of speech and language skills. The short answer: every child grows at his or her own rate! This makes it increasingly difficult for parents to recognize when their child may have a delay in communication skills. Although every child’s development looks a little bit different, you can use this list as a helpful guide as you navigate your young one’s early speech and language development.
Speech and Language Milestones: 1 year
First Words: As a general rule of thumb, children should have at least 1 word that they are using meaningfully by the time they are 1 year old (besides “mama” and “dada”). By meaningful, we mean a word that is used with a purpose and meaning that is understood by the child. Additionally, at this age, word approximations are acceptable. In other words, your child is not expected to be able to produce all speech sounds. If your child is using “ba” to refer to a ball and uses it consistently and meaningfully, it is a word in our book!
Use of Gestures: Your child will begin to use a variety of gestures in order to aid in his/her communication. Because babies are not able to completely rely on their verbal language at this point, gestures are an important means for them to communicate wants and needs. For example, your baby may reach his/her arms up to be picked up or point to something that he/she wants. Using gestures functionally is an important prerequisite to functional verbal communication later down the road.
Receptive Language: By the time your child is 1 year old, he/she will begin to understand a lot of language that is heard in the environment. Children around this age will listen with increased interest to new words and can recognize many words for common items. Although we expect them to use only 1 word at this age, their receptive vocabulary is actually much higher and they generally recognize approximately 50 words. Additionally, your little one will begin to respond to simple requests and follow some simple and familiar directions when provided with a gestural cue (e.g., “sit here” with a gesture). Children will also be able to respond to their own name and to “no” by the time they are 1 year old.
Social Language: Babies begin to display the beginning stages of social language from a very early age. By the time they are 1, they are vocalizing to gain attention, playing social games such as peek-a-boo and waving “hi” and “bye-bye.” Furthermore, babies will smile at themselves if you place them in front of a mirror. All of these skills are signs that your child is interested in engaging and are important prerequisites to interactions and social language for when they are older.
Speech and Language Milestones: 2 years
Expressive Vocabulary: By the time your child is 2 years old, he/she should produce between 200-300 words! Between the ages of 1-2, your child is experiencing a true “language explosion” and acquiring new words every day. Ensure that you are modeling words and labeling objects that your child encounters in the environment. You will want to make sure your child is using a variety of word types such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns
Combining 2-word phrases: In the past, your child was primarily communicating using 1 word at a time (for example, “ball” if they want a ball). By the time children are 2 years old, their vocabulary is growing and they should begin to combine 2 words together to produce phrases. For example, your child may now say, “Want ball” if they are requesting a ball.
Intelligibility: In general, a 2 year-old child should be approximately 50% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners. In other words, other adults should be able to understand your child about ½ of the time. You may have a much easier time understanding what your toddler is saying than an individual who does not have much exposure to his/her speech. Many 2-year-olds will continue to demonstrate articulation errors that are age appropriate (for example, substituting w for r – “wun” for run). As a result, don’t be too concerned if your child is 50% intelligible but continues to have some developmental articulation errors. Contact CSS for a complete list of age-appropriate articulation errors.
Growth in Receptive Language: Your child’s ability to understand language continues to grow. Around this age, a toddler should be able to follow 1-step directions without gestural cues (e.g., “sit down”) and some simple 2-step related directions (e.g., “Get the cup and bring it to the table”). Additionally, 2 year-olds can answer yes/no questions (e.g., “are you a girl?”) by nodding/shaking their head or providing a verbal response. Your child’s ability to answer simple wh- questions (e.g., “What is that?” or “Where is mommy?”) is emerging around this age as well. In terms of receptive vocabulary, your child should be able to understand around 300 or more words!
Social Language: When your child turns 2, he/she will begin to show an increased interest in other children. 2 year-olds demonstrate a variety of social skills such as verbal turn taking, using social words (e.g., “hi,” “thank you” and “please”), engaging in parallel play and making his/her wants known by pairing language with gestures. In regards to parallel play, it is not expected that your child play cooperatively with other children. However, by the age of 2, children play in close proximity to other children and demonstrate an interest in what other children are doing. Additionally, around age 2, children are able to make their wants known by pairing gestures with words (e.g., “want more”, “need help”, “I want ______”).
Please note that this list is not all-inclusive. If you have any specific questions about your child’s speech and language development or for more information, please contact Michelle at Chicago Speech and Reading Center at email@example.com or (312) 600-7230!
About the Author:
Michelle Hersh is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and the founder of Chicago Speech and Reading Center, a private pediatric speech therapy practice in Chicago. CSRC provides in-home and in-school speech-language and reading therapy, as well as therapy in our Roscoe Village office. Michelle’s areas of specialty include (but are not limited to) articulation/phonological disorders, receptive/expressive language disorders, dyslexia, Childhood Apraxia of Speech and pragmatics/social language disorders. Michelle is trained in the PROMPT method for Childhood Apraxia of Speech and has received her training in the evidence-based Orton-Gilingham reading program.