Ways to Promote Speech & Language Skills – 12 – 24 months

When your child reaches 12 months of age, they are officially a toddler! At this point, your child is most likely sitting up and crawling. They may even be pulling themselves up to stand by grabbing your hands or an object. And ultimately, they will start walking within this time period, which means increased exploration of their environment. With these new discoveries and skills, will come new language.

During this stage, your child is acting as a sponge, just as before, taking in everything they see or hear. Receptively, they will begin following basic one-step commands such as “come here”, “give me”, “sit down”, etc. Expressively, your child will continue to take turns with a communication partner and babble using a larger variety of sounds and syllables. You should expect meaningful production of about 5-10 single words by 1. The words will often include familiar people (eg – “mama”, “dada”), favorite foods or drinks (eg – “baba” for bottle, “milk”), favorite toys (eg – “ba” for ball, etc.), or common phrases (eg – “hi”, “bye”). They may even begin humming or singing parts of songs with you while imitating the actions, such as “Wheels on the Bus.” You will also note that your child will point to desired items to request if they do not say the word yet and they will use various gestures (eg – waving “hi” and “bye” or putting their hands up to be picked up”). Their fine motor skills are also advancing rapidly during this time period, which means they are picking up items more easily. As a result, they will begin using toys such as shape sorters, which helps build the foundation for problem-solving skills.

And just as a reminder, every child is different and will develop language at a different rate and speed. We encourage you to contact a speech-language pathologist if at any point you feel that your child may have a delay. Use our tips below to promote speech and language development.


  • Take advantage of social situations during which family members or people are coming and leaving to target waving and saying “Hi” and “Bye”. Your child does not have to say it, but modeling the gestures and words allows them to learn appropriate social skills.
  • Continue using other gestures or signs that will eventually lead to words. Common gestures we teach during this phase is “up” by putting our hands up to be picked up, “more”, “finished”, “milk”, “bathroom”, etc. A great site that teaches basic sign language for babies is www.babysignlanguage.com. It comes with a great dictionary with videos!
  • Use natural situations – park, music/gym class, street, subway, supermarket, etc. – to label objects and comment. Also, since they are getting stronger and more mobile it is a great time to teach action words by acting them out at the same time (eg – open, close, sit, stand, jump, clap, walk, run, dance, etc.).
  • Continue imitating your child’s babbling to promote turn-taking, but also model new words for them. During our last article, we mentioned encouraging imitation of sounds made with both lips…now try to move onto basic words that start with these sounds such as “ball”, “mama”, and “bye”.
  • Keep singing familiar songs and stop so that your child can finish repetitive lines or what we call fillers, by filling in the blanks – “The wheels on the bus go _____ _____ _____”.
  • Practice 1-step commands throughout the day such as “give me the book”, “come to mommy”, “roll the ball to me”, etc.
  • Maintain the reading routine you began during their first year. Similar to songs, begin saying a repetitive line in a book such as “Brown Bear” and stop so that your child can finish – “Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see? I see a ____ looking at me”.
  • While reading keep talking about what you see on the pages such as “I see a BIG plane…Zoooom” and now that they are beginning to imitate more words make sure to model phrases such as “turn the page”, “the end”, “all done”. And you can even comment on colors, quantity, basic feelings (eg – happy, sad), or use sounds effects such as “uh oh” if something goes wrong or falls down during a story. Following this structured routine will allow your child to acquire pre-reading skills such as holding a book upright, moving their finger from left to right on text, etc. You will see that later on during this period your child will begin to pretend to read by turning the pages, putting their fingers on the words, and narrating with sounds or words.
  • During storytime, keep targeting basic questions and following directions with examples such as these: “Where is the baby?” and wait for them to point to the baby, “Open the door” (flap books are great for this!), “Point to the frog”, “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” and wait for them to point to or say the animal. They do not necessarily have to verbally answer, but it is important for them to practice their receptive language skills.
  • During mealtime, have your child request a desired item by pointing or saying the word (or imitating the word). It is also a perfect opportunity to model commenting, especially since you are face to face with your child in the highchair – “Ouch! It’s hot”, “yummy”, “uh oh” if the bottle falls, “all done”, etc.
  • Set up playdates to promote turn-taking, sharing, and basic social skills. Great toys for this time period include shape sorters, puzzles, stacking toys, cause and effect toys such as musical instruments – these involve early cognitive skills and gets your child thinking! Now that they are even beginning to walk, work on object permanence by hiding items or playing a basic game of hide and seek.