Your Child's Brain in Week 93
Somewhere between your toddler's 14th and 22nd months, you'll notice a significant change in her ability to understand and say words. You'll show her a cheese grater while naming it: "Here's the cheese grater. Look, I'm grating the cheese." You'll likely refer to it again when washing it and putting it away. Then the next day you may say, "I need to grate some cheese." And lo and behold, your child will point out the grater for you in the drying rack. She may even utter sounds that you recognize to be "cheese grater."
Today she's finding your cheese grater; tomorrow, it's your flip-flops, car keys, and magazine. It's as if words are exploding from her brain and mouth. In fact, around now, your child may go from saying 50 words to speaking 500 in a period of two months!
What the Research Shows
To determine what language abilities children possess at different ages, researchers brought a group of toddlers into a laboratory at two-month intervals (at ages 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 months). During each lab visit, the researchers showed the toddlers 15 sets of two slides, each displaying a realistic sketch of an object. As they showed each pair of slides, the researchers named just one of the sketched items.
To evaluate the children's receptive language abilities, after a break the researchers showed each child the slides again and asked, "Show me the banana," or "Where are the feet?" An observer recorded whether the child looked at the correct picture.
To gauge the toddlers' expressive language, each child's parents kept a diary of their toddler's spoken words throughout the study to determine his or her language production skills over time.
The results? At your child's age, the chatter may begin! This longitudinal study gives solid insight into what parents can expect from their child's language abilities around now:
- Most children "spurt" between 20 and 22 months in both comprehension and production—that is, they are able to both identify more items and say more words during this several-week period. (In the study, the children at the high end went from saying 50 words to saying 500. Many increased from 50 to 350—still a huge leap in only two months.)
- Some children's language explosions happen as early as 14 months. Just as some kids walk earlier than others, some kids acquire language skills on the early side. So while you can start listening for the spurt to begin as early as month 14, know that if it doesn't, it should be on its way between months 20 and 22.
- Some children never have a language spurt, but instead show a continuous increase in language growth pattern, adding between 50 and 500 words gradually between months 14 and 22.
- Both boys and girls follow these patterns, with girls slightly ahead of boys.