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Twelve months | Speech, language & reading milestones

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Pretty unbelievable how quickly a year goes by, right? This first year of parenthood is a massive year for growth, for both babies and parents alike! I’m sure you’ve been in awe watching your mini-human learn and develop, and you have likely become an expert in things you knew nothing about only a year ago (sleep schedules, feeding, and the list goes on…). No matter whether this is your first or fifth, I’m positive there was also moments of uncertainty where you did not know exactly what to do, what was normal, and worried constantly.

Now that you’re at (or near) that first year marker, words are likely at the forefront of your mind! If you’re wondering what’s expected, what’s concerning, and if your little one is developing on track, I’m here to answer those questions with the 12 month communication milestones. Milestones are skills that 90% of children are able to do by that age, and missing them could mean that a child needs to be seen by a speech-language pathologist (aka an SLP).

What if my child is missing their milestones?

Sometimes doctors take a “wait and see” approach to missed milestones, hoping the child will just catch up with time. Personally, I don’t always agree with this as it does no harm for a child to get a couple sessions of therapy when they do not need it, but it can really impact them to miss out on a year of therapy when they do. If you feel that something is wrong, listen to your gut and reach out to a speech therapist for some professional help! In the end, I always defer to parents. You’re the expert on your child, and you will know if they need help right now!

I’m going to break the milestone skills into four areas of communication: understanding, saying, social skills, and literacy, and explain each of them. At the end, I’ve also included some activities I set up during my sessions to test if children are meeting these milestones that you can do at home!

1 year old Milestones for Understanding

We all understand more than we can say, but it is especially true of little ones! By one, your baby should be able to follow simple commands like “stop!”, “come here”, “give it to me”, or “wave goodbye!” They should also be able to answer simple yes and no questions, like “do you want water?”, either with head movements or words. Your baby should also be able to choose between two options held out in front of them, selecting with a point, gaze, reach, or sounds. If favourite foods, toys, or people are named, your baby should be able to point to or search for what was said (e.g., looking at Dad when asked “Where’s Dada?”)

1 year old Milestones for Talking, Speech and Sounds


Your baby should have at least a consistent first word or two, and be mixing it into their babble. Words can be anything from a exclamation (Yay! Uh oh! Wee!), fun sound (Moo! Neigh! Vroom!) or something way off that only kind of resembles the actual word (“buh” for bubble, or “didi” for sister/sissy). The important thing is that it is said the same way every time for the same thing! Babble at this age should also be sounding closer to adult speech, mixing sounds and saying things like “bah-WUH-guh-uh-bah” or “PAH-GUH-eh-muh” with intonation, rather than simpler repeated babbling like “babababa”. By this age, your baby should be asking questions using “Wha da?” or sounds like “Uh?” while looking to you. I expect to hear most vowel sounds (e.g., “ee”, “oo”, “oh”, “ah”, “aw”, etc.) and a couple of the consonant sounds (usually p, b, m, d, n, y, h, or w)

1 year old Milestones for Social Skills

Even by their first year, children should be interested in interacting and having your attention. Your little one should be using a variety of gestures to communicate, including tapping you or things to get your attention, reaching towards things, and giving or showing you what interests them. They’re probably trying to “talk” using their own babbling language, and will use this to respond to the things you say to them. I like to see one year olds playing back-and-forth turn-taking games with you, like rolling a ball, banging a drum, or dropping things and having you pick them up (such a fun game, right?).

1 year old Milestones for Reading

Parents, do not stress if your little one is not listening or sitting through stories! At this age, what matters is that your baby always has access to sturdy books with bright colours they can explore. By one year, I’m hoping your little one is interested in looking at the pictures, chewing and patting the pages, and sharing the book with you. Plan accordingly and choose books that are fairly difficult to completely destroy! Check out our post on reading tips for little ones for some ideas on how to encourage your baby to read more.

How to see if your child is meeting their milestones

I’m sure some of these milestones you’ll be able to identify in your child immediately, but for others you might not have thought to test it out yet (which is okay, this is a new way of thinking!). If you need ideas, here are some activities you can do with your 12 month old to see if they’re meeting their milestones:

  • Call your child’s name and see if they turn around

  • Yell “stop” when they are crawling/walking away from you, and see if they react

  • Say “come here” or “give it to me” once without gesturing, and see if your child listens

  • Hold up two choices for your baby and see if they can pick out one

  • Write down all the words your baby says (anything produced consistently, even if incorrect, counts as a word – e.g., “muh” for milk, “moo” for cow, “didi” for Daddy, etc.)

  • Try getting your child to imitate all the listed sounds expected for their age

  • Count how many turns your child can take in a back-and-forth game, like rolling a ball

  • Look around your house and ensure there are books on or near the floor your child can grab at anytime

If you have any thoughts or questions, please head over to @chattytherapy on Instagram and send me a DM! I’d love to hear if this was helpful, terrible, or answer any additional questions you might have about milestones.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you and hope to see you soon!

 

Chatty Therapy has wonderful speech-language pathologists who can give you more specific ideas on how to work with your child and tailor it to your daily routine. Or we can come into your home to help your child learn the concepts they need. Speech-language pathologists specialize in helping children understand others and express themselves better. If you are worried about your child’s speech, language or feeding abilities, learn more about our services or book a free 15-minute consultation. It may be helpful for us to do an assessment to identify specific areas that your child could use more support with.




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