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 him along the marathon of learning to speak not just by talking to him, but by engaging him in conversations, and by waiting to hear his response. The more chances Baby gets to try his language skills out, the more chances he has to improve his 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.

His spoken words aren’t the only communication skill Baby is improving, though. He’s also working on his 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 him 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 his fine motor control improves, and he moves from gripping a crayon, marker, or pencil in his fist to holding it between his thumb and first three fingers. As he starts to be able to use a tripod position to hold a writing implement, he inches his 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 he prepares to learn even more later as he grows. Giving him 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 him make new discoveries as he grows.

Milestones

  • Sits in a small chair: Baby may still be strapped into his 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 he plays “with” at daycare, in playgroup, or on play dates, but he is probably moving out of the solitary play phase and into parallel play, where he is noticing and paying attention to other children he is playing near, even if he isn’t really interacting yet.

Sources
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