Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler will progress from saying her first word to speaking in sentences. While it is important to note that not all children acquire speech at the same speed (some are more interested in learning how to use other parts of their bodies rather than bother with language), most children follow a predictable pattern for speech development. Know the milestones and keep talking to your toddler to help her learn new words and how to use them.
A toddler typically says his first word by 12 to 15 months. By 18 months, he has a handful more words and can point to familiar people and body parts when asked. (“Where is your nose?” “Point to Daddy.”) A 1-year-old can use several consonants at the beginning of his words (b, d, m, l). His understanding is growing even faster than his vocabulary. By age 1, he can follow simple directions, such as “roll the ball to Mommy.”
By age 2, a toddler should be putting two words together to make imperfect sentences. (“Mommy book.” “Kitty gone.”) She now has a vocabulary of about 50 words, says KidsHealth. That will grow to 200 words by age 3. Your 2-year-old can follow two-step directions, although she may not do what you ask. (“Pick up the ball and throw it to Mommy.”) Between the ages of 2 and 3, a toddler can understand the difference between go and stop, in and on, up and down, big and small. She uses more consonant sounds, such as k, g, f, t, d and n. Her speech is becoming more understandable. At age 2, you probably only understand half of what your toddler says. By age 3, about 75 percent of her speech is intelligible. It might not always make sense, but you will be able to understand what she is saying three out of four times.
Use clear sentences when you talk to your toddler to encourage her speech. Repeat what she says to you, and then add a little more. If she points to a kitty, say “That is a pretty kitty. His fur is white and fluffy. That kitty is sleeping in the sun.” Build her vocabulary by reading books together, singing songs or doing fingerplays. Speech is acquired with practice and imitation. Put your face close to hers when you talk to your toddler, so she can see how your mouth moves to form those words.
If You Suspect a Problem
Toddlers go through explosive development in two short years and can lag in any area for months. If your child consistently misses milestones for speech development, talk to your doctor for more advice. There are many reasons for speech delays. Your doctor can help identify what parts of speech development are lagging, and put you and your child on a path for resolving those issues.