1.5–2 years old: Cognitive and linguistic development

1.5–2 years old: Cognitive and linguistic development

Your toddler’s cognitive and language development at 19–24 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, understand speech, and express themself verbally.

Cognitive and language development: 1.5–2 years old

Cognitive skills

At this age: 

  • With your guidance, your toddler is becoming aware of the passage of time, even though this concept is still abstract for them. For example, they understand the meaning of phrases like “not now” and “when we get home.”
  • They can sort objects by colour or shape.
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 can recognize and name people they know in photographs.
  • They play make-believe using simple, repetitive gestures. For instance, they might take your phone, put it to their ear, and say, “Hello?”
  • They’re able to build a tower by stacking four or more toy blocks.

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

  • Experiment with one-to-one actions (e.g., one plate per person at the table).
  • Gradually understand that two things can be the same.
  • Become extremely curious around new people, objects, or sounds (i.e., look at or listen to them very carefully).
  • Understand what two means.
  • Stay absorbed in activities they like for several minutes.

Language skills

At this age:

  • Your toddler understands more words than they use in their speech.
  • They have an easier time understanding instructions such as, “Go get your blankie from your room,” and questions like, “Where’s Daddy?” even if the person isn’t in the room.
  • They can name some of the things they see around them or in picture books, often pointing to them at the same time.
  • They’re slowly beginning to construct two-word “sentences,” such as “More juice” or “Want cookie.”
  • They use their own name to refer to themself.
  • They occasionally pronounce the same word differently because they’re still getting used to talking, and sometimes they’re hard to understand.

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

  • Understand and be able to answer when asked, “What’s your name?” or “How old are you?”
  • Use a wide range of words, including verbs (e.g., eat, play) and articles (e.g., a, the).

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 child’s cognitive development.

When you let your toddler take the lead during playtime,
they become more talkative and feel that you’re interested in them.
When you name your toddler’s emotions,
they gradually learn to understand the words associated with their feelings, even if they don’t use them right away.
When you read your little one a book that describes experiences they’re familiar with, such as bedtime routines,
they feel understood and pay attention to what you’re saying.
When you sing nursery rhymes and pause before certain words,
your toddler may jump in and fill in the blanks.
When you give your toddler different-size containers to play with during bath time or in the sandbox,
they get to explore the relationship between objects and size and gradually learn the difference between empty and full.
When you ask your toddler to point out an illustrated object in a picture book,
they expand their listening vocabulary while having fun.
When you explain to your toddler that they’ve placed an item in or on another object,
they start to understand the meaning of these more abstract words.
When you give your toddler opportunities to show their skills while gently encouraging them to push beyond their limits (e.g., by asking them to stack four blocks during playtime instead of three),
they gain the confidence to take on new challenges.
When you repeat what your toddler says while adding a word or two (e.g., they say, “More” and you reply, “Yes, more milk!”),
you show them how to formulate short sentences.


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/Westersoe



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