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Developing Early Language at 12-24 months: A time of rapid development

Developing Early Language

The ages of 12-24 months are pivotal for a child’s development. During this period, a child’s skills and sensory awareness develop rapidly. Toddlers at this age are full of energy, active and curious. Everything seems attractive and worth touching, smelling, and tasting. 

Every game, interaction and activity is an opportunity to develop their language. Growing children need to hear more words—names for things, colours, places and people.



How children learn to speak


Children learn to speak based on the experiences they have and the words they hear. Modelled language spoken by adults is central to a child’s language understanding and use. If a child doesn’t hear a word spoken by someone else, they won’t know it, and they certainly won’t use it. They learn from the interactions they see and experience. 

Adults support children’s development through informal conversations, through songs and rhymes with movements and through shared reading. Asking children to discuss stories or real events helps them develop their language skills, thinking, and understanding of the world.


Books and reading


Reading with children is an essential habit to form and include in every daily routine. Stories aren’t just for bedtime. Stories teach children words and help them develop a sense of order and sequence. Stories promote imagination, questioning, discussion and interaction. Below, we’ve listed some great books to read for under 2s.

  1. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
  2. Gorilla by Anthony Browne
  3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  4. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
  5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


Apps and Technology


There are many digital games and apps which can offer appealing educational value, but the use of some of these can sometimes be at the cost of essential early interactions and opportunities for speaking. 

The best way to use technology with children is to use smartphones and tablets to take photos of the things they enjoy doing. Taking photos will provide a pocket-sized photo album that can be shared and talked about time and time again. Pictures of any enjoyable and memorable experience can be a perfect starting point for conversations. Take pictures of games, places, people, favourite foods, pets, buildings, anything and everything. 


Visit places 


There are countless places on our doorsteps that offer free and exciting local outings. Every trip is an opportunity to learn and build experiences. Every day there are opportunities for conversations about the weather, how busy places are, the wildlife around, and the trees and flowers noticed in the gardens passed along the way.


Things to try:


  • Visit a local park, look at the gardens and animals.
  • Enjoying the swings and playground.
  • Catch a bus together, sit upstairs and experience a different view. 
  • Take a look at the front gardens along your street; which are your favourites?
  • Call into the local library, sit together and explore the children’s books.
  • Take a local walk and stop to sit on public benches and play I-spy.


Physical Play


Children aged between 1 and 2 years old continue developing physically, and once they have learned to walk, they are always on the move. There are lots of simple and stimulating activities which can become part of daily and weekly routines. A few examples include:

  • Make time for walking. 
  • Get dancing. Pick a favourite song and dance to it every day.
  • Playing with puzzles, blocks, stacking and nesting toys, lacing materials, etc., to develop fine motor skills.
  • Playing with musical instruments.  
  • Finger painting, using crayons, and large markers
  • Playing catch with a ball.


Taking Turns


Simple board games can promote turn-taking and interactions. There are lots of other good ways to instigate interactions and turn-taking. Talking during play, such as “my turn, your turn”, is vital to model interactions. Playing games helps children develop the skills to use when they are playing with other children.

Try these games:

  • Snap
  • Ker-plunk
  • Pop up Pirate
  • Jenga
  • Connect 4


Development Summary


Between the ages 1 and 2, children should be able to:

  • Identify a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked.
  • Follow simple commands (“Roll the ball”) and understands simple questions (“Where’s your shoe?”)
  • Enjoy simple stories, songs, and rhymes.
  • Point to pictures, when named, in books.
  • Acquire new words regularly.
  • Use someone- or two-word questions (“Where’s doggy?” or “Go home?”)
  • Put two words together (“More milk”).
  • Use many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words.


The importance of listening skills


Children must develop the ability to listen to interact, and communicate with the world efficiently. By building the foundation

and practising listening, children are prepared and equipped to

develop their language, social and learning skills. 


These activities can help promote strong listening skills.


Take a listening walk. Stop at different locations and listen to the

sounds that can be heard. Point in the direction of the sound. Is it loud

or quiet? Can you imagine what it might be? Play an “I-hear game (

like I-spy)


Play Simon Says. It doesn’t need to be Simon; of course, it could be a

familiar toy or story character. This is a great game to help develop

careful listening skills.


Play copycat games. Copycat games can involve clapping patterns and taking turns copying the pattern. It can also be good for songs and words, sing songs, notes and tunes and encourage children to copy them



How can Chatta help?

The Chatta approach has been designed to ensure progress in early language for all children. Chatta uses software to capture images of events in a child’s life, along with the spoken words that accompany the events.

One great example of how Chatta can develop language at this pivotal age is that childminders can create “talking postcards” with children and share them with their parents. One childminder, Margaret Lonsdale, shared with us, “whenever I do something new or exciting with the children, we make a Chatta board together. We put the images together and talk about what we did.  Then, when I send the chats to parents, they can have the same conversations with their children and even try new ideas. I love using Chatta with my children.”


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