How Many Words Should a 18 Month Old Say?

by | Dec 2, 2022

Parents spend hours, wondering and worrying that their child is not meeting their milestones. It’s normal to be concerned about whether your child is meeting their language goals, googling questions like “how many words should a 18 month old say.”

I remember being worried about my second child’s language skills. My oldest child, my daughter, spoke early, and she continues to talk more than I ever thought a single human could speak.

My son was not the same, and when he was 18 months old, I began to wonder if his vocabulary was normal. He spoke, but his number of words was far smaller than his sister’s vocabulary.

This is when I had to remember that there is a big range of what is typically for talking. If your child is on the “low” end of their spoken words, it is still normal for them, just like it’s normal for another child to have more spoken words.

So, if you are feeling nervous, keep reading to see how many words should a 18 month old say.

Related: 1 Year Old Milestones: Typical Development in Your New Toddler

When Do Babies Start Talking?

Before we discuss when babies start to talk, we have to determine what it means to talk.

Babies babble; it’s part of their early milestones. Babbling is part of language development, so it’s always a good sign when you hear your baby mimicking sounds they hear.

When those babbles begin to sound like words, parents may wonder if their baby has officially began to talk. Speech language pathologists use three criteria to determine what is considered a word rather than babble. Some of the babble really sounds like your baby is saying something!

  • Your baby uses the same sound combination to mean something specific, such as a dog or a ball.
  • Then, they have to say it on their own without directly copying someone. For example, if you say “say ball”, and your baby says it, that is not considered a word. They mimicked the sounds you made, but if they see a ball and say “bah”, chances are they are saying the word.
  • Last, they have to say it three times. When your child sees dad come into the room multiple times and says “dah” each time, your child is speaking and using a word.

Now that you know what to look for, the question is – when do babies start to talk?

Babies typically say their first word between 10 and 14 months old. Some may say their first word a bit earlier, around 9 months, and some may wait until 15 months for their first word. However, 10 to 14 months old is the average age.

Before this age, parents hear babbling. Your baby may string together the same syllable repeatedly, such as ba-ba-ba. As he gets older, the sounds may mix together, and you may notice your child changes his tone as well.

Babies are sponges, and they hear all of the sounds and changes of your tones as you speak. Your voice may get higher at the end when you ask a question. These things are called voice inflections; we change the tone or pitch of our voice, and babies learn this naturally as they hear you speak.

Common Speaking Milestones for Infants and Toddlers

Here are some typical language and vocabulary milestone benchmarks for children.

  • 6 Months Old: Babbling begins
  • 10-14 Months Old: Their first word appears, and more will follow behind.
  • 14-18 Months Old: Their vocabulary continues to grow and develop. By 18 months old, a child typically says a minimum of 20 words.
  • 15 Months Old: Your child should know and point to several parts of their body when asked. This continues their vocabulary knowledge, even if not spoken.
  • 24 Months Old: The toddler should say a minimum of 100 words and pair two to three words together in short sentences.

Who is a “Late Talker”?

According to experts, a child is a “late talker” when they are between 18-30 months old, understand language, but has a limited spoken vocabulary. These toddlers meet other milestones on time, such as their motor skills, social skills, and thinking skills.

Doctors have yet to pinpoint a reason for late talking. Some suggest that it’s simply due to a family history early language delay, while others suggest it has to do with their birth and development in utero.

If your child is a late talker, you aren’t alone. Around 13% of two year olds are considered late talkers, so you are in good company.

How Many Words Should a 18 Month Old Say?

The number of words that an 18 month old should say varies widely from 20 to 200 words. Most 18 month olds should say at least 20 words at this point. However, the average milestone – what 90% of children at this age can do – is 10 words.

So, if your child is saying anything from 10 words and up, chances are your doctor will say they are on target for their growth.

18 months is in the rapid time for vocabulary growth for toddlers. Most toddlers at this age come up with new words regularly.

By 24 months old, most toddlers say a minimum of 100 words, so you can see that your child continues to grow this milestone. Our babies learn every day; the growth from 20-100 words in six months is impressive!

Why Are the Word Recommendations So Different?

If you talk to your doctor, read something by the AAP, or speak to a speech language pathologist, you’ll figure out something real quick.

Everyone has a different opinion on how many words should a 18 month old say.

That makes it incredibly frustrating. SLP say that an 18 month old should have 50 words, but the AAP and CDC say 10 words. That is quite a difference, so what gives?

It’s all based on how they get their numbers.

SLP use an average of what children say as their guideline. So, an average number of 18 month old toddlers say 20-50 words. However, doctors use milestones as guidelines, which means 90% of children accomplish this goal. So, 10 words is what they will say is the milestone.

When Will My Child Put 2 Words Together?

Once your child starts to say several words, parents anxiously wait for the to string two words together. “All done” is perhaps the first two-word sentence parents want their child to say.

On average, children put two words together between 18 and 20 months old. By two years old, children should have several frequent two-word combinations, and some may have longer combos.

Some Common Words You Might Hear a 18 Month Old Say

The words you hear come out of any child’s mouth will vary widely. Sometimes, our kids shock us with the words they know.

However, on average, here are some of the most common words you’ll hear an 18 month old say.

  • Baby
  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Eat
  • Up
  • Down
  • Cookie
  • Ball
  • Drink
  • Hot
  • Cold
  • Hi
  • Bye

If you are wondering how many words should a 18 month old say, your child should say a minimum of 10 words with an average of 20-50. Always speak to your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child meeting their milestones!