18 months old

Don’t look now, but at 18 months old, many children move out of the slow-and-steady tortoise phase of learning to speak, and instead start racing ahead like the hare. Children whose language skills take a great leap forward around this time, or a little after it, may start picking up as much as a new word every week, and may be about ready to start stringing two or more words together into phrases or even questions.

You can help encourage her along the marathon of learning to speak not just by talking to her, but by engaging her in conversations, and by waiting to hear her response. The more chances Baby gets to try her language skills out, the more chances she has to improve her understanding.

Children who are learning to speak two languages at once can have a slower start, as their minds begin to file away and process more information about languages, but bilingual children also often experience a big lurch forward into significantly more language skills. This surge may not always happen at the same time, but can follow the same pattern of slow-and-steady language growth suddenly moving into a significantly faster phase.

Her spoken words aren’t the only communication skill Baby is improving, though. She’s also working on her skills in the universal language of art, and moving towards being able to learn written language one of these days. These advances still might not be very obvious, since when you hand her a crayon and paper, the image that appears on the page still pretty much just looks like scribbles.

These scribbles are definitely a sign of progress, though, as her fine motor control improves, and she moves from gripping a crayon, marker, or pencil in her fist to holding it between her thumb and first three fingers. As she starts to be able to use a tripod position to hold a writing implement, she inches her way to being able to write words a few years down the road.

Baby’s scribbles are just one more example of the way that play is how Baby learns, and how she prepares to learn even more later as she grows. Giving her plenty of opportunities for open-ended, creative play, including imaginary play, running-around-and-throwing-or-climbing-things play, or arts-and-crafts play, can only help her make new discoveries as she grows.

Milestones

  • Sits in a small chair: Baby may still be strapped into her high chair for meals, but by around now, many toddlers are able to sit themselves down in toddler-sized chairs and sit there pretty steadily, if they’ve had the chance to practice a little.
  • Is interested in other children during play: Baby probably isn’t ready to start making friends for life with the other children she plays “with” at daycare, in playgroup, or on play dates, but she is probably moving out of the solitary play phase and into parallel play, where she is noticing and paying attention to other children she is playing near, even if she isn’t really interacting yet.

Sources
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