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November 15, 2011 / the speech monster

About toddlers’ speech

So I’m still pregnant, but about to pop anytime soon! One of the topics of great interest in the recent months for me has obviously been infant and toddler development. Sure, I had gone through a class about this in grad school and have worked with 2 – 3 year olds, but not toddlers younger than that, so I can’t say I know a ton about this.

A lot of eager parents (like I will be or am already!) ask about their kids’ speech and language milestones, and many of them adopt a “wait and see” approach or think their kids will grow out of any delays they may seem to have. However, what really is a toddler’s speech and language milestone below 2 years of age supposed to be?

Putting it very briefly:

The general consensus is that a 12 month old child should be able to comprehend simple verbal requests (e.g., “show me your tummy”), babble (dada, baba), and even be able to respond to “no” and say mama and dada. They may even be able to say some words. Generally, they seem to understand more than they can say.

Between 12-24 months a child should start putting two words together (mummy go) and understand simple one and two step instructions. On average, your child should understand about 200 words even though s/he can only produce between 50-70.

How do we keep track of the child’s vocabulary? I highly recommend parents to keep a journal of the words the child says and seems to comprehend. Break it down into:

Receptive (Understanding)

  • Vocabulary
  • Sentence structure type (questions or sentences)

Expressive (Use of words) 

  • Vocabulary
  • Number of words in a sentence/type of sentence

It sounds like a lot of work but really that will be the only way to keep track of your child’s utterances. Here are some good websites to check out if you wish to read up more about infant speech and language development:

Caroline Bowen’s Website (Speech Pathologist) 

American Speech and Hearing Association 

Baby Center

Of course, if you’re really concerned, always ring up a Speech and Language Pathologist to discuss your child’s situation and get professional advice. The earlier you nip it in the bud the better!

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