13 - 15 Months

3 subtle signs your toddler’s language skills are developing

Your toddler may not be saying much that you can understand quite yet, but their growing communication and cognitive skills may be evident in other ways. When they hand you something or shake their head in response to a request or question, they’re demonstrating language comprehension

These subtle clues are easy to overlook—in fact, research suggests that many parents underestimate how many words their young toddler understands. Watch for these non-verbal signals to get a better idea of what your toddler knows. 

1. They respond to words by using body language (about 9 to 14 months)

You may notice your toddler turn toward a family member when asked, “Where’s Papa?” or lift their arms when you say, “Would you like up?” These are indications that their receptive vocabulary—the collection of words they understand—is expanding. Ask them questions or make simple requests: “Where’s the dog?” or “Hand me the spoon, please.” Watch how your toddler responds to see what words they may know. 

2. They repeat a sound or gesture to get a laugh (about 12 months)

Once your child realizes a sound or action makes you giggle, they’re likely to repeat it. This indicates they understand that you find their behavior funny and they know how to keep the laughs coming. 

Add a simple sound effect or word to the joke to extend your child’s comedy routine and grow their communication skills. If your toddler is playing peekaboo with a blanket or the Bright & Light Play Scarf, try saying a silly “Hi!” each time they show their face. When you take a turn hiding, your toddler may try to imitate you and say “Hi!” when you appear, too ❤️

3. They find ways to ask for what they need (about 12 to 19 months)

Your toddler may shake their head “no,” nod their head “yes,” or clap when they’re excited. This shows your toddler knows these actions carry meaning, and they’re using them to tell you something. 

Try introducing a few simple gestures to your toddler to help them communicate what they want and need—like waving flat hands back and forth for “all done” or clenching and unclenching a fist for “milk.” You can find more signs in ”My First Signs” Board Book.

Your toddler needs time to tell you what they want, so give them a chance before guessing. Instead of, “You must be hungry! Let’s get a snack,” try asking, “I wonder what you want?” This small change may encourage them to point, gesture, or even say words.

Learn more about the research

Houston-Price, C., Mather, E., & Sakkalou, E. (2007). Discrepancy between parental reports of infants’ receptive vocabulary and infants’ behaviour in a preferential looking task. Journal of Child Language, 34(4), 701-724. 


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, Language & Communication, Language, Communication, Speech Development, Lovevery App, Child Development

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