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Language development from 12 to 18 months

Starting to use language

Officially your baby is now a toddler. At this stage children will be starting to use language as well as becoming more sociable towards others. Your child’s first words may come slowly, but new words will quickly follow!

To encourage your child’s language development at this stage try singing nursery rhymes. There are some great ideas in the rhyme time section. Nursery rhymes connect language to actions and will help your child’s understanding and memory. Use toys and objects that make a noise, as well as noisy tapes and books to encourage attention and listening skills.

Using every opportunity to speak to your child about something that they can see will help them connect words to the world around them. Name and label any objects your child sees or is pointing at. This will help reinforce their understanding of words. Talk to your child about what you are doing (e.g. “Mummy is putting her shoes on”).


If 'first words' have not emerged by 18 months make a concerted effort to spend half an hour a day just playing and interacting one-to-one with your baby. This can be difficult to organise in larger families, but it often does the trick! You can discuss how to make maximum use of this time with a speech and language therapist who may suggest and demonstrate various activities.


Your child’s pronunciation will be poor and often only you will understand them.


Let your emotions shine through your words; they’ll have more impact that way e.g. “Wow, look at that great big tower you’ve built”, “Oh no! Your tower’s crashed.”


Match what you say with what you do and with your facial expressions or gestures.