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  • Genna Nichol

Speech and Language Milestones 12–18 Months

Your 12- to 18-month-old is now a toddler interested in playing and becoming more expressive with each passing day! This article provides a list of the typical speech and language milestones most children will achieve at this age.

Developmental milestones toddler playing with toy train
Toddler playing with toy train

Play milestones:

  • Engage in pretend play on their own (i.e., feeding a doll)

  • May not be able to share or be interested in playing with others yet

  • Prefer certain toys

  • Demonstrate play related to the actions of the body (i.e., sleeping, drinking, bathing)

  • Use similar-looking objects in place of others, known as symbolic play (i.e., use a box as a crib or bed)

  • Enjoy repetitive play such as stacking objects

Social milestones:

  • Communicate for various reasons (e.g., requesting, protesting, pointing to show someone something)

  • Make eye contact when others are speaking

  • Demonstrate sympathy, empathy, and sharing

  • Show emotions such as fear, anger, and joy

  • Bring objects to show caregivers what is of interest to them

  • Use ritualized gestures such as waving “bye” and shaking head “no”

  • Use some ritualized words such as “bye” to supplement gestures

  • Use inflection when vocalizing

Speech milestones

  • Babble using different sounds with inflection (sounds like a real sentence)

  • Copy sounds you say

  • Use sounds m, p, b, d, w, and h

  • Understood by caregiver about 25% of the time

Expressive language milestones:

  • Say several single words (by 18 months says at least 20 words)

  • Communicate by crying, laughing, pointing, showing, reaching and making sounds

Receptive language milestones:

  • Turn toward the direction of sounds

  • Respond to familiar sounds such as their name

  • Recognize words for common objects (e.g., cup, shoe)

  • Understand several words by 18 months

  • Follow simple routine directions

  • Follow simple directions and understand simple questions “where are your shoes?”

It is important to remember these are milestones for most children at this age, but each child develops at their own rate. However, if your child has not met a significant number of these milestones or if you are concerned with your child's development, please see your family doctor who can do a thorough assessment and suggest next steps.


We offer speech and language assessments and therapy for children of all ages.


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