Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

Communication Development from 18 Months to 2 Years and Tips to Strengthen Speech

It is sometimes difficult to know how much a child should be talking. Every child’s development and language acquisition might look a little different, but this post can help guide parents to know what to expect generally.  From 18 months to 2 years old there is a period of rapid development for children in their ability to learn new words.

 By 21 months children should be able to:

  • Uses at least 50 words 
  • Consistently imitate new words 
  • Name objects and pictures 
  • Understand simple pronouns (me, you, my) 
  • Identify 3-5 body parts when named 
  • Understand new words quickly

By 24 months children should be able to: 

  • Begin to use 2-word phrases 
  • Use simple pronouns (me, you, my) 
  • Understand action words 
  • Use gestures and words in pretend play 
  • Follow 2-step related directions, e.g. “Pick up your coat and bring it to me” 
  • Enjoy listening to stories

There are many ways to help strengthen a child’s communication skills during this period of their life (or even before or after the 18-month-2-year-old age range). Parents can expand toddler talk by adding grammar pieces to the sentences such as making a word plural or adding an -ing. For example, if the child says “cat chair!” a parent can say “Yes the cat is sitting in the chair!” By adding visual cues so children know how to answer questions or by slightly overemphasizing any sounds a child needs to work on you can help them build on their communication.  

Another helpful tool is a series of videos Kelli Meyer, a licensed speech pathologist made. She teaches and demonstrates how to incorporate speech therapy into everyday life. She has a YouTube channel with lots of videos addressing everything from stuttering to how to build engagement with children. One helpful video she has is how to help encourage late-talking toddlers. Toddlers like being able to say fun onomatopoeia words like “Wow” and “Uh-Oh” and building engagement can help them repeat these words. 

If parents have concerns about speech or language delays it is always helpful to talk to their pediatrician. Here are some general concerns to look out for that might be an indication that certain interventions and additional support would be helpful: 

  • by 12 months: isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye
  • by 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate, has trouble imitating sounds or has trouble understanding simple verbal requests
  • by 2 years: can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases spontaneously, says only some sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs, can’t follow simple directions or, has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)

It is also important to note that parents and regular caregivers should understand about 50% of a child’s speech at 2 years and 75% of it at 3 years. And that by 4 years old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.

There are a number of at home activities and community agencies that can help support a child’s language development. If parents have questions or concerns about their child’s speech or language they can always reach out to a parent support specialist at Help Me Grow Utah at 801-691-5322.

Tagged under