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Receptive Language Milestones for Toddlers 12 to 24 Months

Parents and caretakers often see symptoms in the expressive language of their children that result from an issue in the children’s receptive language, the understanding of another person’s words and language. When seeking to resolve the language development issues, care must be taken to address the root causes and not the symptoms. While receptive language issues can be found in babies, they are often more noticeable in toddlers 12 to 24 months old as the expressive language begins to develop. Around 18 months, children generally have 5-20 words and they begin to have a language explosion, achieving 150-300 words to their vocabulary by 24 months. Parents may recognize a problem if there is a delay in the language explosion, even though this delay may be the result of an overlooked receptive language issue. Ensuring children are progressing to and through general milestones for receptive language ability is important, because solving the issues early can often be easier and improve the child’s overall expressive and receptive language abilities sooner. Below are some receptive language developmental milestones for children 12 to 24 months old.

  • Understands simple directions, especially with visual or vocal cues

  • Knows and can point to several body parts when asked

  • Follows one-step commands during play, such as “Roll the ball”

  • Understands some early prepositions, such as “on” and “under”

  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes

  • Finds familiar objects not in sight

  • Chooses familiar objects from a group of objects on request

  • Understands familiar action words, such as “run” and “walk”

  • Points to familiar pictures, when named, in books

If you have any questions about your child's speech and language development, talk with your pediatrician, your speech-language pathologist, or give us a call at 1-866-849-4608.

Mize, Lisa. ‘Receptive Language Milestones for Toddlers’,,, (accessed March 11, 2021).

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Speech and Language Developmental Milestones,,, (accessed March 17, 2021).

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