Language Development: One Year Old

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Around the one year mark is when most parents see language development start (you’ll know that’s not quite true if you read my posts on birth to six months and six to twelve months). It’s when first words emerge, and children become verbal communicators. The year between turning one and a child’s second birthday is a big year for communication, and it is often when parents have their first inkling that their child’s language might not be developing as expected. Read on for insight into what typical language development looks like at this age.

12 to 18 MONTHS OF AGE

First Words

This is an exciting time for parents. Around the 12 month mark, most children with say their first word, but it can be normal to achieve this milestone anywhere up to 18 months. If you’re lucky their first word may have even been your “name” (Mum or Dad). If it wasn’t, not to worry, for language typical children it will surely come fairly soon.  On average, by 18 months most children will have around 50 words in their arsenal.

Reasons to Communicate

As well as acquiring the words to communicate, around this age children are also working on new things to communicate about. They will be using a combination of words and gestures to request things they want, protest things they don’t want (no tends to be a common early word), comment on the world around them, greet and farewell people, label objects, asking questions, answering questions and more.

Receptive Language

A child’s receptive language is also making big leaps at this age. Around this time a child will be able to answer “where” questions (e.g. “where is daddy?”), complete simple instructions (e.g. “get me your shoes”, “sit on the chair”), identify some body parts and identify family and familiar people.

18 to 24 MONTHS OF AGE

Vocabulary Development

By 18 months your child should have said their first word, and will most likely have quite a few words. At this age, typically developing children will be acquiring words at a rapid rate of a word a day or more. They will be learning to name things, as well as the words for actions (e.g. jump, kick, eat, drink), locations (e.g. up, down, in, on), descriptive words (e.g. hot, cold, wet, yucky) and names (e.g. Mum, Dad, siblings names, characters names, etc.). This rapid acquisition of words means most children hit their 2nd birthday with 200-300 words on average.

Emerging Sentences

In this period your child will also be making the transition from single words to two word phrases. When a child has around 50 words, you should begin to see the emergence of two words strung together spontaneously (e.g. “kick ball”, “in box”, “mummy go”). These two-word phrases are their first real sentences, and it allows your child to give you more information than single words could.

Something to note: While children begin talking a lot in the year we’ve covered in this post, it is very normal for most of what they say to be difficult to understand. Until around 3 years of age, speech sound development can be very variable, and your child will need time for their speech coordination to catch up to their language output.

Learn more about typical language development with these other posts in our language development series:

Birth to Six Months
Six to Twelve Months

Two Years Old
Three Years Old
Four Years Old
Five Years Old