Children start understanding the meaning of simple words at between 7 and 10 months, and they start saying—or approximating—real words in the second half of their first year.
These first words, which you’ll hear more of your toddler, are usually labels for the things and people they know best: “Mama,”
“Dada,” “do” for dog, or “ba” for ball. You may also hear more complex observations, such as “gone!”, “uh-oh!”, “more!” and “bye-bye!”
Try sharing new meanings with your toddler by pointing to objects and saying what they are. Studies have shown that kids as young as 10 months old will remember words taught once or twice in this way, and will do so for weeks or months. Researchers believe this capability—called “fast mapping” is first used to learn language and then applied to other kinds of learning.
What to Watch for
Between 18 months and 6 years, children learn an average of 9 new words a day! Toddlers vary as to how soon they begin to combine words into sentences and on the complexity and completeness of their sentences. Learn more about this.
While most babies arrive in the world ready to learn a language, many studies have shown that their environment fuels that development. Kids who live in language-rich homes—where wordplay (including nursery rhymes and songs), reading and family dinner table conversations are everyday activities—acquire more language earlier and use it with more ease and effectiveness as they grow.
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