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How does Speech and Language Develop in the 12-18 month old baby.

Updated on February 22, 2013

12 to 18 months

By now babies will be producing strings of sounds made up of different syllable combinations. These sequences may be produced with such adult like speech patterns that you would be forgiven for thinking he is really talking, asking questions or demanding something!

However on closer listening you will find that they are mostly gibberish.


First words!

Some time around the babies first birthday he will produce his first word. During the course of the next year he will learn to produce up to fifty more and begin to combine them into short sentences and phrases.

These words will be the names of important people-mama dada, objects-bott(bottle) ball, teddy, food, action words-like “More” Up, drink. Personal-social words like-no, please, and descriptive words like mine, dirty.

However these first words don’t necessarily mean the same thing to your child as they do to us. Young children use single word to convey simple but sometimes more complex messages.

For example they may use “juice” to refer to all types of drink, “car” will be used for trucks, tractors and all sorts of moving vehicles or they may use “doggie” to refer to all animals.

They use their newly developed vocabulary in many and creative ways.

They will continue to make demands and requests by gesturing and pointing, but they will begin to use their new words to control their environment and ” no no no” is familiar to many parents as they squirm and cry.

How does Understanding develop?

Their understanding is actually now developing more rapidly than their expression.

Babies learn by experiencing the same routines-feeding, play, bath time- over and over again and hearing the same words and phrases associated with them.

They come to expect these things to happen in a certain way.

These “routines” form the basis of their understanding of their world, events and eventually language.

For example-when dressing the baby you say “handies up” as you lift up his arms to dress him,” open wide” as you feed him, or “get the ball” as you both chase after it.

By timing the language with the event, or the direction, he learns to associate the two, and this forms the basis for true language understanding.

He then begins to understand words when they are used in a familiar way in a familiar setting.

For example as you are dressing him and his socks are in sight-if you say “get your socks” he will understand and obey.

However if the same direction is given in an unfamiliar context he will not. For example if you are packing an overnight bag and you ask him to ”get your socks”-now there are no socks insight –you are doing something outside of his routine, he does not respond because he does not yet understand the direction in this context.

That’s why trying to get children to “perform” at this stage hardly ever works!


During this time his play is becoming more sophisticated and this can be seen in the development of his imitation skills .He will try to mop the floor, drive the car,set the table and give teddy a drink.These also are reflected in his imitation of sounds and speech.He will imitate all sorts of animal noises and vehicle noises with great pleasure. He will fill in the words-especially the last words in the line of rhymes and songs. He will begin to repeat sounds and may surprise you by repeating new words and sometimes phrases.


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    • bredandagnes profile image

      bredandagnes 5 years ago from Ireland

      thank you-glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Love the picture! Cute little girl! Great information again! Enjoyed it.