Speech, language and communication development: 18-24 months

Speech, language and communication development: 18-24 months

This is my first in a series of posts to provide you with information about speech, language and communication milestones, what to expect and how to encourage development of these skills. Between 18-24 months, children are learning new words every day and getting better at using their words to effectively communicate with others. Around this time most children go through a period of rapid language development and it can seem like they are coming out with new words and phrases on a daily basis. It is an exciting time for parents and their children.

What to expect
When we talk about development of skills it is important to remember that all children develop at their own pace. Below is a list of skills that most children have developed by 24 months:

  • At 24 months, children typically use 50 or more single words.
  • Children start to put two words together to form early phrases, such as “more milk”, “shoe on” or “ball gone”.
  • Children begin to ask simple questions such as “Where Mummy?”
  • It is normal for children to use a limited number of sounds in their speech. Children typically use the following consonant sounds at the beginning of words: p, b, t, d, m and w.
  • Speech can still be unclear and may be difficult to understand. As a general rule, at 24 months parents should be able to understand at least 50% of what their child is saying.
  • Children can follow simple instructions and questions such as “Get your shoes”, “Show me your nose” and “Where is Daddy?”. Children can now understand between 200 and 500 words.
  • Children start to understand instructions containing two key words, such as “Get your coat and shoes”.
  • Children can now concentrate on activities for longer periods of time. They enjoy listening to short stories with pictures.
  • Children can recognise and identify most common objects when they are named. They can point to common pictures in a book.
  • Children are happy playing alongside other children and enjoy interaction with children and adults.
  • Children enjoy simple pretend play, such as feeding their teddies or brushing their doll’s hair.

Tips to encourage language and communication development
There are lots of strategies that benefit all children at this stage as they are learning language. Below are a few ideas:

  • Keep your language simple and talk about what you and your child are seeing and doing.
  • Look at books together to develop shared attention and language skills. Choose books that are bright, colourful and engaging. Young children often love ‘touchy feely’, ‘pop-up’ or ‘lift-the-flap’ books. At this age don’t worry about reading the exact words on the page, just talk about the pictures that interest your child. If your child points to a picture, name it and pause to give them a chance to copy you.
  • Listen and sing to nursery rhymes together and use the actions as you sing. Over time you might find that your child will fill in the sounds, words or actions which come at the end of a line, for example ‘Twinkle, twinkle little ____’.
  • Repeat and expand on what your child says. If your child uses a single word, expand on what he/she says and add a second word. For example, if he/she says “ball” you could say “red ball”, “kick ball” or “ball gone”. If your child uses two words for example, “mummy car”, you could add language and say “mummy’s red car” or “mummy’s driving the car”. Expanding and adding language is a simple and effective way of teaching your toddler new words and showing him/her the next stage in his/her language development.
  • It is normal for children to make speech errors and struggle to articulate certain sounds as their speech is developing. Instead of correcting them and asking them to say it again, it is better to say the whole word back to them as you would say it. For example if your child says “bye-bye ca” you could say “bye-bye cat… cat gone”.
  • Follow your child’s lead during play to develop play skills and encourage shared attention. More ideas are listed on my previous blog post.

Where to go for help

Learning language and communication skills can be a difficult process for some children and they may benefit from extra support from a Speech and Language Therapist. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, language and communication skills you should discuss these with a Speech and Language Therapist, your child’s Health Visitor or GP. For more information about Speech and Language Therapy services provided by Let’s Talk Speech, you can visit our parent page. You can also follow us on facebook for tips and further information about speech and language development.

I am a fully qualified Speech and Language Therapist with a First-class honours degree in Speech Pathology and Therapy. I am a registered member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice and the Health and Care Professions Council.
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