Everything You Need To Know About Toddler Language Development

You’ve made it! You’ve survived your baby’s first year and my was it incredible and terrifying all at once! At this point you’re probably beginning to feel confident in your mommin’ game and you are LOVING all the developmental changes you are seeing in your little one regularly. Your baby is growing all the time and along with their character AND hopefully their language. In second year of life your child is becoming more independent, they are beginning to understand more of your dialog when you speak to them and using many new words! It is likely that your child’s receptive language (what they understand) and their expressive language (their verbal and gestural expressions) are at a miss match. Children often understand far more than they say at this age and are learning more and more every day! Here are a few things you can hope to see in your baby’s second year for language development. Keep in mind these are generalizations and should not be used to diagnose your child with any type of speech delay, rather as a guideline as for what to expect in the second year of language development.


 What does my little one understand?

  • Your child may point to a few body parts when asked questions like, “Where is your nose?”

  • Your baby may look around when you point things out them like “Look at the bird!” or “Where did the ball go?”

  • They are beginning to be little helpers by following 1-part directions, like “drive the car”, “roll the ball” or “give mommy a kiss”.

  • Your little one may respond to simple questions like “Who’s that?”, “do you want a cookie?” or “Where’s your shoe?”

  • They may be more attentive when listening to simple stories, songs, and rhymes like “Old Mac Donald”, “Paddy Cake” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”.

  • They are engaging in story time by pointing to common objects in a familiar book when you name them.

You may also be interested in: Everything You Need To Know About Baby Language Development

What does my toddler say?

  • Uses pbmh, and w in words.

  • At this point your kiddo is probably using quite a few words. Between the ages of 1 and 2 most toddlers are able to say about 50 words or more.

  • Your child should begin to put words together  to formulate two- to three-word sentences such as “More cracker”, “I want ball” or “let’s go mommy!”

  • At this stage, most toddlers can point to and name common objects in familiar stories or picture books.

  • Asks questions, (lots…and lots…of questions)  like “What's that?”, “Who’s that?”, and “Where’s dada?” 

Now that you know a few of the fun things you can hope to expect for your littles’ language, let’s talk about how you can encourage and facilitate their growth as a communicative partner! When it comes to these little people, there is no need to feel overwhelmed or spend hours and hours planning! The best way to engage them in language boosting activities is to throw some language rich opportunities into their every day.

What can I do to encourage language development?

  • No brainer; Talk to your child! Talk to them every opportunity you have. My kiddos have always had their own little opinions when it comes to what they wear and getting dressed in the morning is the PERFECT time practice naming common objects such as clothing items and body parts! Talk to your kiddos as you are putting on their clothes, be descriptive but concise in your language, and for example “Let’s put on your shirt. Who is on your shirt? Is that Mickey Mouse on your shirt? I love Mickey Mouse!”  As you do things and go places, which let’s be real in the hectic life of a mom we are always going places our kiddos may NOT find to be the most fun (like target…guilty!) These little adventures with your child are prime opportunities for discussing items they see in the community. For example, when taking a walk, point to and name what you see. Say things like, “I see a tree. The tree has pretty leaves.  This tree is green”

  • Use short words and sentences that your child can imitate such as “I want Ice Cream.” or “More Play Doh please” . Always use correct grammar with your little one, they are little sponges!

  • Talk about sounds in house and all around! Listen to the clock tick, and say “t-t-t.” Make car or plane sounds, like “v-v-v-v.” Animal sound are often fun and quite entertaining for tots and you can take turns making the sounds of your favorite farm animals during storybook reading or imaginative play.

  • Play with sounds at bath time. You are eye-level with your child. Blow bubbles, and make the sound “b-b-b-b.” Pop bubbles, and make a “p-p-p-p” sound. Engines on toys can make the “rrr-rrr-rrr” sound.

  • Be your child’s narrator! Expand their utterances to model expanded sentences For example, if your child says says “cat,” you can say, “You're right! That is a big black cat.”

  • READ. READ, READ, READ! Just as I discussed in our series on your child’s language development from birth- one, reading is one of the single most IMPORTANT activities to do with your child each and every day!  When selecting books for your kiddos from ages 1-2, pick books with large pictures and a few words on each page. The more repetitive the book is, the better for example “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “Good Night Moon.” Talk about the pictures on each page and encourage your child to label the pictures as you go along.  They may not label pictures independently at first but providing a clear model for them is the perfect way to see growth in their ability to name common objects/pictures!

  • Lastly, and my favorite tip to share: INCLUDE OLDER SIBLINGS! What better model for your child than their older brothers or sisters? If your kiddos are anything like mine, your little one looks up to their older sibling and loves just about everything they do! This is a great tool for encouraging language from your toddler. You can have your older child label pictures in a book, make expanded requests such as “I want a cookie please” or participate in imaginative play with your little one. All of these activities provide language rich opportunities for building one word, two words and multi word utterances from your toddler in the most fun way!

You may also be interested in: How to Get Your Toddler to Help With Chores


Ok mommas, now you have some awesome activities for building language with your kiddos in your “go to bag” , here are some of my favorite books and toys to have on hand!

Books + Toys for Toddler Language Development | Momma Society

Bath toys can be used to label animals and expand utterances. Your child may start by stating the name of each animal before catching it then move to “I want the octopus” once they are more developed in their language.

See n’ Say is a great toy to engage your child in making requests such as “ I want cow”. After showing your child how the toy works, and the fun it can be to hear the silly sounds the animals make, ask them to state or point to the animal they wish to hear. Spin the arrow to the animal requested then count to three very slowly allowing your child to observe your model for slow, predictable speech. Pause for 15-20 seconds before enthusiastically saying “GO!” and let your child pull the string to make the animal sound ring! This exercise can be repeated for as long as your child would like and the level of difficulty can be increased as your child expands in their language by making expanded requests, describing animals like the “big pink pig” or the “cute brown dog” etc.

Bubbles can be very motivating for toddlers when it comes to making requests. The requests can be lengthened as your child grows for example, your child may make the request as “bubbles” then proceed to ask “more bubbles”, “more bubbles please” and lastly “I want more bubbles please.”

Car Ramps are great for counting, naming colors and working on prepositions such as up and down. Your child may request which car they would like to go down the ramp by color. If your child does not yet know their colors, hold one car in each hand and gesture toward your child with the color car as you state the color and ask, “do you want the RED car or the BLUE car” . Place the car at the top of the ramp and give the model for “1-2-3, GO!” You can discuss how the car is going “down, down, down” or “round and round and round”.

Most farm toys are helpful for practicing animal sounds, making descriptions of the animals, making expanded requests and singing songs such as “Old Mac Donald” Once your child has mastered animal names and sounds this activity can be used to target descriptive language such as the “big brown horse” or the “fuzzy sheep” as well as prepositional language such as “put the pig next to the horse”.

Bath time is an excellent time to target language development with your children. These waterproof books are perfect for labeling. Children between 1 and 2 years of age are often a bit rambunctious and being in a calm bath can really facilitate their undivided attention during this labeling task.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear” should be read at a slow pace with frequent pausing to allow for your child to fill in the repetitive text while reading. This is a task that is highly beneficial to include your older children in as well as they may be more familiar with the text of their favorite books and can “read along” providing a language rich opportunity to model to their younger sibling.

Don’t miss Dana’s first post in this series: Everything You Need To Know About Baby Language Development


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