By Raising Children Network
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Toddler holding mum's thumb
Language development in children aged 1-2 years is amazing. Your child will start to understand what’s said to her. And by the year’s end, you might even understand some of what she says to you! Here are some of the things you might expect at this age.

Vocabulary and language development

At 1-2 years, your child will expand the vocabulary of words she understands. At first he’ll understand mostly nouns – for example, ‘dog’, ‘bus’, ‘couch’. Eventually he’ll understand a few verbs – for example, ‘eat’, ‘run’. Adjectives come next – for example, ‘big’, ‘blue’.

Understanding and language development

At around 12 months, your child will understand the names of things nearby – for example, common objects (‘cup’, ‘doll’), body parts (‘tummy’, ‘toe’) and clothes (‘sock’, ‘hat’). But she’ll use the same words to refer to different things – for example, calling all animals ‘doggie’.

At around 15 months, your child will point to things further away and ask you to name them for him.

At around 18 months, your child will refer to herself by her name. A few months later, she’ll begin to understand and use ‘I’ to refer to herself. This is when she starts to realise she’s a separate person with her own ideas.

During this year, your child will understand some regularly used phrases (‘Give me a kiss’), simple directions (‘Stop that’) and very, very simple explanations. He’ll start being able to identify parts of his body, and to point to objects when asked (‘Show me the truck’).

Using words and sentences

Language development includes learning to use words and sentences.

At around 12 months, your child will start using words to share messages with you and start to replace babble with real words. Your child might also enjoy saying the same word over and over.

She’ll begin to put two words together (‘mummy car’, ‘me go’, ‘sock foot’) as she nears two years. Words like ‘the’ and ‘is’ will be missing in these two-word sentences. She’ll use only a few descriptive words at this age – for example, ‘big’, ‘red’, ‘sunny’. Her word combinations will consist mainly of nouns and some verbs (‘dog eat’, ‘car go’).


Your child will use a range of speech sounds, but it’s normal for him to pronounce words differently from the way adults would say them. For example, he might say ‘tar’ instead of ‘car’, or might leave off the ends of words altogether, like ‘ca’ instead of ‘cat’.

Your child’s pronunciation will often be hard to understand. By the time she’s two years old, someone who doesn’t know her well should be able to understand about half of what she says.

Conversation and communication

Learning to have a conversation is part of language development.

Your child will draw attention to something by saying ‘Wassat’ (‘What’s that?’). He’ll answer simple questions and he’ll understand the difference in your tone when you ask a question or make a statement. He’ll also know what it means when you say ‘no’ or ‘not’.

Your child will try to make it easier for you to understand her by combining words, gestures and sounds and by changing the tone of her voice.

And your child will enjoy imitating the actions of people around him, and start to understand how to get attention from others by ‘showing off’. 

Children grow and develop at different rates. The information in this article is offered as a guide only. If you’re at all concerned about your child’s language development, speak with your GP or child and family health nurse.
  • Last updated or reviewed 01-02-2016