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Communicating Kids – 1 to 2 Years

Social communication

Children of this age will probably be using facial expressions to communicate how they feel and use eye contact and looking as a way of interacting. They should start to show more interest in sharing in activities like a toy, a book or a physical game, with another person for short periods of time. They will be using increasing gestures like reaching, pointing and passing things to let adults know what they want, or ‘tell them’ something.



Children of this age will be developing understanding of words about;

  • everyday routines such as bath time, going to the shops and so on
  • everyday people and object names such as shoes, grandad and so on

They should become able to follow simple instructions such as lie down for nappy change.

Expressing themselves

From 1 to 2 years old you should see the words your child says grow until they have around 50 words by the time they are 2. These words are likely to be things in their everyday life, including people, pets, toys, food and drink, animals, parts of the body (like eyes and nose) and transport. They are likely to start using short phrases and putting 2 words together around the time they are 2.


At 1 year old children will still be trying out using early sounds and lots of their ‘talking’ will be babble. This gradually reduces across the year, with the emergence of more words, but unfamiliar people may still struggle to understand what children of this age are saying. It would be expected that children become more understandable as they approach 2 years old, however they are still likely to have lots of words that they can’t quite say right.

What can adults do?

Model real words

It can be tempting to use ‘baby words’ with children of this age, or copy the way they say things, but it is a good idea to model the real word to them from the start.

Repeat words lots

Children need to hear a word a huge number of times to learn it, especially in the early stages of learning words.

Use gestures (actions and signs)

Gestures often come before words, supporting your words with an action gives your child a stronger message which helps understanding and gives them the chance to use an action to let you know they want something before they can say the word for it.

Make communication meaningful

Focus on words not sounds

Children at this age are likely to have lots of words they cannot quite say right which is normal. Let them know you have understood them is the important thing. It is helpful to repeat back the correct version of the word but do not expect them to be able to repeat it correctly just yet.

Focus on words that are important and helpful

It is more useful to be able to ask for a drink or a favourite toy than be able to name colours.

Remember they are listening even if they are not talking, so think about the words you are using and what you want your child to be learning.

Top tips

Give choices using objects.

“Do you want breadstick or cracker?” (showing each option as you say it).

Children at this age often know what they want and can use a gesture such as reaching or pointing, but might not have the words to be able to say what they want.

By showing them 2 options and giving them a choice it gives them a chance to use the skills they have to let you know what they want. It also means adults are modelling words clearly in meaningful situations.

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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