Language development is crucial during early childhood. According to the Mayo clinic typically-developing children are able to express 50 unique words by 24 months, and by age 5 children will acquire an expressive vocabulary of 2,100–2,200 words.
What’s expressive language?
It is the language children are able to speak and use in conversational speech. And, receptive language is the language children can hear and understand. What children understand, is often higher than expressive language. In other words, they may not be able to express it verbally, but they understand a lot of what we say from a young age.
What is the best way to support language development both expressive and receptive?
The answer may surprise you, but the biggest thing parents and caregivers can do is speak to babies and children throughout the day and as much as possible.
As you change your baby, explain what you are doing as though you a narrating it. “I am going to pick you up to change your diaper now. I am grabbing a diaper and wipes. I am cleaning your bottom. Yuck! Let’s throw this away. I’m going to wash your hands now. Wow! That waters a little cold, huh? Okay, all done I am putting you back down to play now.”
For older kiddos, you can boost vocabulary and learn at the same time by “over” describing things. “I am going to give you the green cup, it is made of plastic. It feels cold once I pour the milk in it, why do you think that is? How many cups are left in the cabinet? Let’s count together? One, Two, Three…”
By conversation, observational statements, and thoughtful questions, we are helping our children grow and develop.
From the Mayo Clinic
By the end of 3 months
By the end of three months, your child might:
Smile when you appear
Make cooing sounds
Quiet or smile when spoken to
Seem to recognize your voice
Cry differently for different needs
By the end of 6 months
By the end of six months, your child might:
Make gurgling sounds when playing with you or left alone
Babble and make a variety of sounds
Use his or her voice to express pleasure and displeasure
Move his or her eyes in the direction of sounds
Respond to changes in the tone of your voice
Notice that some toys make sounds
Pay attention to music
By the end of 12 months
By the end of 12 months, your child might:
Try imitating speech sounds
Say a few words, such as “dada,” “mama” and “uh-oh”
Understand simple instructions, such as “Come here”
Recognize words for common items, such as “shoe”
Turn and look in the direction of sounds
By the end of 18 months
By the end of 18 months, your child might:
Recognize names of familiar people, objects and body parts
Follow simple directions accompanied by gestures
Say as many as 10 words
By the end of 24 months
By the end of 24 months, your child might:
Use simple phrases, such as “more milk”
Ask one- to two-word questions, such as “Go bye-bye?”
Follow simple commands and understand simple questions
Speak about 50 or more words
Speak well enough to be understood at least half the time by you or other primary caregivers