Skip to Main Content

Welcome to

Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

Learn More

Language and Speech Skills for Children Ages 1-2 Years

Speech and language skills develop quickly in the first 3 years of life. These skills progress at slightly different rates for every child. However, language usually follows natural stages or milestones based on a child’s age.

Language milestones

At 1 to 2 years, your child should be able to:

  • Listen actively to simple stories, songs, and rhymes
  • Follow 1- to 2-step commands, like "Roll the ball" and "Pick up the block and put it in the bucket" 
  • Point to several body parts
  • Point to pictures in a book when you name them
  • Know action words like "eat" and "go"
  • Say and understand new words every month. By age 2, they should use about 50 different words or more.
  • Ask 1-word and 2-word questions like "What's that?"
  • Put 2 words together, like "more juice" and "get up"
  • Repeat words they hear from others
  • Use different consonant sounds at the beginning of words, such as saying "g" in the word "go"
  • Be creative when playing with toys and making sounds
Child playing using sounds

Creative play with sounds and toys is an important milestone for speech and language development.

How to help your child learn language and speech

Even at this young age, there are many ways you can help your young child develop language and speech skills. 

  • Be a good speech model. Do not imitate your child's unclear speech or baby talk.
  • Correct your child by saying words properly, repeating, and calling objects by their correct name.
  • Tell your child what you are doing and what you see. If you take a walk, point to familiar objects, and say their names. For example, say "I see a dog. The dog says 'woof’."
  • Use simple words. Use correct grammar in easy sentences that your child can imitate.
  • Take a “sound walk” around your house or outside. Help your child notice sounds like footsteps on the floor, a door closing, a phone or bell ringing, birds singing, animal sounds, dogs barking, rain, thunder, or the sound of the wind.
  • Use sounds during play time. For example, make sounds like a boat on the water when they take a bath. Let them feel the air of sounds as you make them.
  • Sing or talk to your child and use new words to build their skills.
  • Reinforce your child's single-word speech, then add to it. For example, if your child says "dog," respond by saying, "You're right! That is a big, black dog."
  • Read to your child every day. Choose books with simple, colorful pictures that have 1–2 words or a simple sentence on each page.
  • Name objects in pictures and use words to describe them. Ask your child to point to pictures or name the objects that you point out.
  • Talk with your child. Ask them questions to make them think and speak more.
  • If your child cannot say real words yet, talk back to them with the sounds they make. For example, if your child says, "Baba" and reaches for the bottle, you can say, "Yes, that is your bottle."
  • Sing simple songs with your child, such as "Happy Birthday."
  • Play matching games with your child, such as sorting shapes and putting together simple puzzles.

Signs of speech or language problems in your child

In some cases, children with illnesses may reach milestones later than usual. This may be due to change in their environment, routine, or social interactions. Or the illness or treatment might harm hearing, learning, and processing skills.

Your child may have a speech or language problem if they have:

  • Difficulty understanding and expressing language
  • Delay in developmental milestones
  • Trouble forming some sounds, dropping sounds, slurring words, or stuttering
  • Issues sucking, chewing, or swallowing
  • Problems making their lips, tongue, or jaw move properly
  • Difficulty being understood by others
  • Tendency not to talk

Signs of hearing loss in children

Hearing loss can slow or prevent the development of language and speech. Look for signs that your child’s hearing is developing normally. If your child can hear, they usually will:

  • Know the sound of your voice and get quiet when you talk to them
  • Respond when you say their name
  • Wake up from sleeping when there is a loud noise
  • Make noises to get your attention
  • Turn their head toward someone speaking or toward sounds that interest them
  • Enjoy the sound of music or toys that make noise
  • Imitate common sounds they hear
  • Respond when they hear voices on a phone

Pay attention to ear problems and infections, especially when they happen often. Contact your doctor if you have questions. Your doctor may refer you to an audiologist to have your child's hearing tested.

An audiologist is a health care provider who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems. If your audiologist says your child needs a hearing aid, your child must use it to help their language and speech skills.

Find more information on Audiology and Hearing Care.

Therapy for language and speech problems

If your child has problems with speech or language, your care provider may recommend speech therapy.

A speech therapist or speech-language pathologist is a care provider who can help your child with speech and language problems. A speech therapist or pathologist can recommend tests and develop a therapy plan. They can give ideas for how you can help your child at home.

If you have questions about your child’s speech and language development, talk to your care team.

Key Points

  • The first 3 years of your child's life are important for learning speech and language.
  • Most children develop speech and language skills in stages (milestones).
  • Help your child develop speech by letting them hear new sounds and words. Use correct grammar when you interact with them.
  • Watch for any signs of speech delays, hearing loss, or other problems.
  • Speech therapy can help with speech, language, and communication problems.

For more information

Find more information on related topics:

Reviewed: September 2022