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Is my 12-18-month-old normal?

Communication Milestones

I know you have a wonderful, gorgeous 12-18-month-old. They are the light of your life. But, somewhere in the back of your mind, you are asking yourself, is my child ok? Now, more than ever, we have access to the lives of other families. Through social media, we can easily believe that other parents are doing it better, that their children are smarter or more developed than our own dear child. It’s so hard not to compare.

Over the next few weeks, I want to give you a short series on what is considered ‘normal’ for our child’s communication skills. This will put your mind at rest and help you recognise when that special small person in your life may need some extra support from a speech pathologist.

We will be considering the following elements of communication and tracking these across the age span:

  • Speech: the sounds your child is making and how they are putting them together to make words

  • Vocabulary: the words your child understands and uses, and how they store them

  • Receptive Language or Comprehension: how your child understands and responds to language

  • Expressive Language: the way your child expresses themselves through words and sentences. It includes how they use language and gestures to think and convey their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

  • Phonological Awareness: the way in which they understand and interpret sounds which leads into literacy

  • Play and Cognitive Skills: which provide communication opportunities and help your child to develop language for thinking, reasoning and problem-solving

Between 12-18-months, your child should:


  • Confidently make a range of sounds using their lips, such as ‘b,m,p

  • Make a range of tongue sounds such as ‘t,d’ and ‘n’

  • Use a variety of vowel sounds

  • Be experimenting with their voice - moving between different pitches and volume

  • Have a go at copying the sounds you make


12 months

  • Move from strings of babble to some recognisable words

  • Say 8-10 words that you can recognise

  • These words won’t necessarily be said clearly, but their sound patterns will become more consistent.

18 months

  • By 18 months, your little one should be able to say between 10-50 words.

Receptive Language

12 months

  • Understand about 10 words

  • Respond to their name

  • Recognise social words and gestures such as 'hi' and 'bye-bye'

  • Recognise familiar people and objects

  • Make eye contact

18 months

  • Understand up to 50 words and some short phrases

  • Follow simple instructions such as "put it on, push it down"

  • Look for a person on object when asked "where is __?"

  • Point to pictures in books when asked

  • Responds to "give me __"

  • Identifies at least 4 body parts

  • Understands some location words e.g. up, down, in, on

  • Is interested in books

Expressive Language

  • Use their voice, gestures and facial expressions to let you know what they want

  • Express their feelings with sounds and body language

  • Uses 16 or more gestures

  • Interested in copying different sounds and noises

  • Copy animal noises

  • Use their own name

  • Copy words that they have heard

  • Use inflection in their voice when communicating e.g. voice goes up at the end of a sentence when they ask a question

Phonological Awareness

  • Play with sounds and sound patterns

  • Realise that sounds have meanings

  • Be interested in books

  • Be introduced to words in books

  • Be interested in songs and rhymes

Play and Cognitive Skills

  • Initiate turn-taking routines, e.g. sharing food

  • Hand toys to adults

  • Copy actions e.g. pretending to use a vacuum cleaner

  • Begin to use options in pretend play, e.g. holding a toy to their ear and saying 'hello' or feeding and comforting a teddy or doll

Your child should also be showing signs of experimenting with speech and language.

If you are concerned that your child is not meeting these early communication milestones, it is the right time to see a speech pathologist. It is always best to seek help early and never take a ‘wait and see’ approach.

A speech pathologist will be able to assess your child’s communication skills and give you advice and strategies to encourage your child’s development.

At Newcastle Speech Pathology, we are passionate about helping children develop their communication skills and supporting their families because clear communication unlocks opportunities. Contact us to see how we can help you and your child.

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