Language Development, 13 to 18 months
From Babbling to Baby Talk
After your child’s first year, developmental milestones happen fast. Many children take their first steps between 13 and 15 months, and by 18 months most are walking independently. Running and climbing stairs is not far behind. They’re not only mobile, they’re grasping small objects, stacking blocks, kicking balls, and even starting to help feed themselves.
Of course, one of the biggest and most exciting developments is language. Around the end of the first year, babies often begin trying to copy speech sounds. Between 11 and 13 months is when to watch for first words like “dada,” “mama,” and “uh-oh” (that last one having a lifetime of uses).
It’s not just a one-way street. Words they may not yet be able to say, they are still starting to understand. They may respond to simple commands like “wave bye-bye,” recognize simple words like “milk” and “shoe,” and more often respond to sounds and voices with curiosity and attention.
While there is a wide range of normal language development, it is certainly an exciting time for parents as their child goes from smiling bundle of joy to a young, if quite limited, conversationalist.
Baby’s First Words
What first words should every parent expect? As TV and popular culture have taught us for so long, baby’s first words are often “mama” and “dada.” Other words to come are those they have heard frequently and may associate with specific people or objects in their environment that are very meaningful to them. Words like “ball,” “dog,” and “book” are soon to follow, and teddy bears may become “bear-bear” during this period.
Parents can support language development by talking to baby and describing things that are going on. “Let’s put on your shoes.” “Look at the dog.” “That’s a red ball.”
Another aid in language development is when parents or caregivers read simple board books with colorful pictures to their baby. Pointing to pictures and naming them is a valuable activity.
Communication, more than Words
Did you know that gestures are a fundamental component of language? In addition to developing the foundation of speech between 13 to 18 months, babies are learning to point and draw attention to objects, people, and events.
They will reach for things they want, shake their heads to indicate “no,” and nod to mean “yes.”
Simple hand gestures are used to ask for more, wave hello, or clap to show appreciation and happiness.
Gesturing is an important precursor to language development, and it helps children communicate their needs and desires before they have words, as well as helping them make themselves clear once they begin to talk.
Word Combinations and Conversations
By 18 months, most children are putting together word combinations like “more milk,” ”play ball,” and “daddy go.”
At this age, some children will start to understand turn-taking in a conversation, although this feature of language varies widely in development and may not start until 24 months. Taking turns in a conversation is actually a complex skill that develops gradually over time, and children may still struggle with it even after they have developed the basics.
It’s important for parents and caregivers to speak to their child frequently and encourage them to use words and simple phrases, while also being patient and allowing them to progress at their own pace.
Early Intervention Therapies
If you have been worried that your child is falling behind with early childhood milestones, including language development, and your gut is telling your child may need support with their development, Early Intervention is a program that can help you get answers.
If you have concerns, ask your pediatrician about Early Intervention therapies from TEIS Early Intervention.
At TEIS Early Intervention, our therapists listen to your concerns, assess your child’s individual needs, develop a customized treatment plan, and educate you along the way on simple routine-based solutions to maximize your child’s development in their natural environment.
Early Intervention evaluations and therapy services are available under the Federal Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. Before services can be provided, an independent evaluation of your child must be completed. To assure impartiality, one agency offers evaluation services while another provides therapeutic services.
To schedule an evaluation call us at 1-800-692-7288 or email to [email protected].