Language Development Activities 
Ages 1-2

Oh the year of the first words! This year can be so exciting! Parents get to hear their child's first words. However, it can be quite stressful for some parents if their child is a late talker. Trust me, I know. My son is a late talker!!

Outlined below are language techniques to use with your child to encourage those first words and vocabulary growth. Have fun!

Speech & Language Development Milestones Chart
Ages 1-2

Expressive Language

  • Uses 30-50 words consistently 
  • 60% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners 
  • Imitates words easily 
  • Vocabulary increases each month 
  • Speaks with 2 word phrases 
  • Asks simple questions 

Receptive Language

  • Points to body parts 
  • Follows simple directions 
  • Understands "no" 
  • Points to pictures in books 
  • Understands about 300 words
  • Listens to short stories

If you want a checklist to print and keep track of progress, please clink on the link: Toddler 1-2 Years Old Speech and Language Milestone Checklist. Otherwise, review the chart below. 

Toddler Language Techniques

Set The Scene

Before we get to the language techniques, we need to set the scene for successful communication. Here, I will cover proper body positioning and appropriate conversational styles. These tips should be used throughout the day as much as possible.

Speech therapists love acronyms since they are a fantastic memory strategy. So, in the spirit of things, let’s call the technique of setting the scene “BLTT” (bacon, lettuce, tomato, with an extra tomato).

  • Body Positioning: Bend or squat down to the level of your child. Make sure you are looking eye to eye. This way, you have your child's attention and he or she has yours. 
  • Life is Not a Quiz: This means, don’t ask your child too many questions throughout the day.  For some parents, asking questions is a natural way to start a conversation. Instead of asking questions, make comments as you play with your child.
  • Take the Pressure Off: Many well-intentioned parents easily create a stressful communication environment for their children, accidentally of course.
  • Talk While Playing:Talk with your child while playing games, during meals and any other daily routines. While you are talking, make sure you have conversations with your child. 

If you are new to this page, read this page now!!!


Language Simplified

When talking with your child, use simple, age appropriate language. Infants and toddlers cannot process long, complex sentences. Therefore, when presented with such complicated language, they do not learn nearly as much. Of course, you don’t want your language to be too simple either so your child isn’t exposed to new words and/or grammatical structures. This rule can be stressful for parents. They worry, “Am I doing too much?” or “Am I not doing enough?” To take the pressure off, I created “my rule of thumb.”

My rule of thumb: Match child’s level of language plus one

Review the entire protocol here:



Next on the list, your child has to be able to imitate. This is one of the most important early language skills. I might be as bold as to say it is the most important. A child has to be able to repeat sounds, words, actions, and social skills as he or she learns language.

However, if your child is not imitating or not imitating consistently, it is a little more complicated than simply saying "say....." to your child. A child may freeze up due to the pressure. Teaching your child how to imitate is not as easy as one would think.

Not Imitating at All Games:

Imitation Gestures But Not Words

Chooses Not To Imitate

3 Strikes & You Win

3 Strikes & You Win is a great technique to encourage your toddler to use words instead of pointing or grunting. This technique models a word multiple times without pressuring your child to say it. Some parents feel that this technique is too passive, but it is not. It actually encourages your child to use words instead of pointing or screaming without frustrating him or her or you!

Learn how to do this technique in detail here (this is a must read):

3 Strikes & You Win Games:

Question Time

Ahhh…questions, this can be a tricky one. Too many questions can be very stressful for a little language learner, especially open-ended questions (i.e., “how are you?”). However, questions should not be avoided altogether either. They are a necessary part of communication and if used correctly, can expand your child’s vocabulary immensely.

The key here is balance and asking questions in the correct manner.


In general, adults ask many, many questions. Too many really! The first step is to honestly pay attention to the quantity of questions you ask your child daily. I recommend making a tally every time you ask your child a question to get a true representation of the quantity. I guarantee you will be shocked!   

How To Ask Questions:

When you do ask a question, offer a choice whenever possible.  By offering a choice, your child learns what kind of response such a question requires. Additionally, your child has the opportunity to repeat words which is a great learning opportunity and/or vocabulary review. 

Learn how to do this technique in detail here (this is a must read):

Question Games:

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