Activities to Promote Language Development for an 18 Month Old

By Cara Batema

You might have noticed your child following you around or repeating your actions. Your child is watching and learning from every little thing you do, as listening and talking are the precursors to reading and writing. At 12 months, your child will have a few words in his arsenal, but by 18 months, he should have between 20 to 50 words in his vocabulary, according to ZerotoThree.org. Through daily activities, you can expand your child’s vocabulary, which helps advance his readiness for future literacy skills.

Model Appropriate Language

Your child is listening, watching and modeling everything you say and do, so use this to your advantage. Speak to her in complete sentences, in proper word order and with the correct pronunciation. If your child says “Ball” to indicate she wants to play with a ball, then say back to her, “You want the ball.” When speaking to a child about 18 months old, keep your sentences short and use an expressive voice to maintain her interest. Your responses don’t correct your child; they build upon what she already knows. As your child hears you say these sentences, she builds receptive language skills, which are words she knows because she has heard them. Use your child's focus or point of interest to start talking; when your child points outside, say, "You see the bird outside? He is singing."

Read to Your Child

Another opportunity to model pronunciation and expression to your child is to read aloud. In addition to reading the words on the page, point to the pictures and talk about them. Point to a red car and say, “Look at the car. The car is red. It can go fast.” These short sentences introduce new vocabulary words, which build his receptive language. Encourage your child to speak, which is to use expressive language to name objects on the page. Point to a picture and ask questions such as, "What's this?" or "Where is the doggie going?" Fairfax County Public Schools defines expressive language as the tone of voice and gestures your child uses when he talks. Oregon Health and Science University states a child at age 18 months will reach expressive language milestones like speaking noun-verb sentences or two-word phrases like "more apples," although you might not be able to understand all the words your child attempts to say. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association points out that children develop at different rates, but between 12 and 30 months, your child should do new things with language each month.

Describe Your Surroundings

Narrate the things you do or the things your child does. Between 12 to 24 months, your child understands more of what you say than she can actually say, according to ZerotoThree.org. As you make lunch, tell her what you are doing. Say to her, “I am getting two slices of bread. I am spreading jelly on the bread.” When your child plays on her own, engage in parallel talk, which is your narration of what your child sees, hears and does. Say to her, “You are building a tower. Your tower is really tall.” Use new words to describe things. Describe snack foods as healthy, tasty, yummy or good; use these words daily because it might take several times of hearing the word before your child understands its meaning. Repeating words and using simple sentences builds receptive language skills and teaches new vocabulary words; asking your child to repeat what you say builds her expressive language skills.

Encourage Talking

Although you should speak frequently around your child, also encourage him to speak. Have intelligent conversations with him and acknowledge his attempt to talk. Around 18 months, your child might point to a picture of a cow and say “moo.” You can respond with, “You’re right, the cow says moo.” Point to objects and ask him, “What’s this?” This encourages him to recall vocabulary words, and to respond, which are expressive language skills. It also solidifies your child’s understanding, which is a receptive language skill, and gives him positive feedback for using words.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.