1–1.5 years old: Cognitive and linguistic development

1–1.5 years old: Cognitive and linguistic development

Your toddler’s social development at 13–18 months old. Follow your toddler’s milestones step-by-step.

Cognitive development refers to the acquisition of skills such as memory, attention, reasoning, and planning. These skills allow children to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, in addition to helping them store information, solve problems, exercise judgment, and understand the world around them. Cognitive development also includes language development, which is a child’s ability to communicate, make sounds, understand language, and begin to talk.

Cognitive and language development: 1–1.5years old

Cognitive skills

At this age:

  • Your toddler shows that they can recognize certain colours and shapes. For example, they can insert circles and squares into the right holes on a board.
  • Their attention strays less and less when you look at picture books together.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • They understand the function of everyday objects (e.g., a fork, the telephone, a hairbrush). For instance, they might attempt to loosen something with their toy screwdriver or try to insert a key into a door lock. They also recognize what certain sounds mean; running water in the bathtub signals bath time, for example.
  • They can name and point to one of more of their own body parts.
  • They’re exploring the world around them in new ways. For example, while playing in the sandbox, they might create different mixtures, fill up containers, stack them, and tip them over, or they might enjoy stacking and knocking over boxes or toy blocks.

Over the next few months, your toddler will begin to do the following:

  • Group similar items, such as socks and shoes.
  • Observe and imitate others.
  • Become more and more aware of what adults expect of them.
  • Play pretend (e.g., feed a doll, put it to bed, give it a bath).

Language skills

At this age:

  • Your toddler will point to things to ask for them or show them to you. For example, they’ll point in the right direction when you ask them, “Show me the cat” or “Where’s Mom?”
  • Your toddler can use words to communicate needs or express ideas. For example, they might say, “Again!” when they want you to keep playing peek-a-boo or, “Milk” when they want some milk.
  • They understand many more words than they say. For example, when you ask your toddler “Where’s your mouth?” they can point to it, even though they aren’t able to say the word mouth yet
  • Your toddler understands simple instructions and questions without you making any gestures, (e.g., “Sit down” or “Where’s Daddy?”)

Over the next few months, your toddler will begin to do the following:

  • Point at and name what they see in picture books.
  • Say their own name when referring to themselves.
  • Combine words (e.g., “Mama gone!”).

How can you help your toddler progress?

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your little one’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your toddler’s development.

When you cuddle up together and look at the illustrations in a book,
your toddler learns to name objects that interest them while enjoying spending time with you.
When you rock your little one to sleep while singing to them,
it makes them feel good and they get to hear the same words night after night.
When you explain what you and your toddler are doing as you go through your day-to-day routines,
they feel reassured and learn the words to describe what’s happening around them.
When you name the parts of your toddler’s body while helping them get dressed or giving them a bath,
they learn new vocabulary while having fun.
When you pay attention to your toddler’s favourite games and describe what you’re doing as you play,
your little one learns words that matter to them.
When you play hide-and-seek with your toddler,
they have fun and learn to ask to keep playing by saying things like, “Again!”
When you name things in your home that your toddler has seen in picture books,
they learn to associate two-dimensional images with real-life objects.
When you give your toddler a toy with wheels and encourage them to see what happens if they pull the rope attached to it,
they learn that actions lead to reactions (cause and effect).
When you describe what your toddler wants or what they’re doing,
you teach them to put what’s happening to them into words, something they’ll eventually do on their own.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Marie-Ève Bergeron-Gaudin, speech-language pathologist, and Noémie Montminy, doctoral student in psychopedagogy at Université Laval
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: August 2021


Photo: GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages



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