Social Communication Growth Charts

Baby and mother communicating with gestures

Learn the critical social communication milestones for babies and toddlers, from 7-24 months of age. These milestones cover five developmental domains — play, language, social interaction, emotional regulation, and self-directed learning.

Early communication sets the stage for talking, learning, and later success in life. What you do and say now can make all the difference in your baby’s development. Especially because your baby’s brain is developing at an amazing rate.

These Social Communication Milestones from FIRST WORDS Project cover five developmental domains — play, language, social interaction, emotional regulation, and self-directed learning — with two developmental threads in each domain. Here you will find a list of 10 milestones every two months. Follow the threads to find out what’s in store for your baby from 7 to 24 months and celebrate as your baby reaches each new milestone.

Learn more! Explore hundreds of videos and chart your child’s social communication development on FIRST WORDS Project’s Social Communication Growth Charts website. Use promo code “ROCKET” for a free membership.

Age: 7-8 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can use my hands to take things and move my body toward what interests me.

  • Reach out to touch your hair or jewelry
  • Wiggle and scoot closer to something I’m interested in
  • Reach to grab bubbles in the bathtub
  • Reach out to pick up a piece of banana from myhigh chair tray
  • Hold a toy in one hand and reach out to pat the dog

Sounds & Words

I can make different noises with my mouth and different sounds.

  • Make excited squealing noises as I crawl toward you on the floor
  • Whine when I drop my toy out of reach
  • Make raspberry noises so you’ll laugh again
  • Say ba ba ba while I’m bouncing in my swing
  • Make sounds like “ma ma ma” while waiting for my food to be ready

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can grasp, hold, bang, mouth, and let go of objects to explore how they work.

  • Shake a rattle to make noise
  • Bring a toy to my mouth to chew on it
  • Hold a toy in each hand and bang them together
  • Grab, bang, and drop plastic spoons on the kitchen floor
  • Reach out with both hands to touch a stuffed animal

Social Sharing with Objects

I am interested in exploring objects with you and noticing your reactions.

  • Reach to take a toy you give me while you’re changing my diaper
  • Laugh when you hide behind the blanket and then reappear
  • Watch to see if you notice when I make a loud noise playing with pots and pans
  • Hold my spoon out while I’m eating and notice that you’re watching
  • Bounce and kick my legs in my car seat and look to see if you’re watching me

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I notice you, look at you often, and can easily shift my attention to you when you talk or gesture.

  • Watch you wash the dishes while I eat my snack
  • Giggle and look at you when you are about to tickle my toes
  • Look up at you when you walk in the room, even if I’m playing with toys
  • Watch as you sing and clap your hands and reach out to touch them
  • Crawl to you as you call my name and hold out your arms

Intentional Communication

I am learning you are the agent of change.

  • Reach and look at you when you’re holding something I want
  • Use a loud voice and then notice that I got your attention
  • Turn away from you when I’m finished eating
  • Cry and look to you for help when I’ve dropped something
  • Kick my feet excitedly and look at you when I see you coming to pick me up

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can smile, laugh, and use my voice when I’m happy.

  • Laugh and look at you when you make a silly noise
  • Squeal with excitement when Grandma is about to pick me up
  • Make happy sounds when I see you coming with my cup
  • Giggle and look at you when the dog licks my arm
  • Bounce up and down and use my excited voice when big brother comes in the room

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can use different actions and sounds, in addition to crying, when I’m upset.

  • Cry and lay my head on my tray when my spoon falls down
  • Whine and kick away my diaper while you’re trying to change me
  • Grab your arm and cry when you have to take the remote out of my hands
  • Turn and hide my head on your shoulder when I’m afraid of the pop-up toy
  • Use an upset voice and scoot away when you’re trying to put my shoes on

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can use different actions and sounds that show I anticipate what will happen next.

  • Roll over to you when you walk in the room to be near you
  • Start pushing on my tray when I know it’s time to get down
  • Scoot away quickly and giggle when I hear you say Gonna get you
  • Cruise over and pull on your pants when I see you drumming on your lap
  • Hold my arm out to help when you put my shirt on

Creating New Ideas

I am interested in learning what I can do with objects.

  • Explore your hair by rubbing and holding onto it while you carry me
  • Bang a pot on the kitchen floor to hear the loud sound
  • Splash my bath toys to see what will happen
  • Drop cheerios on the floor and watch the dog come gobble them up
  • Have fun smashing my banana on my tray

Age: 9-10 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can use early gestures like giving and reaching to get you to do something.

  • Give you my sippy cup to get you to fill it up
  • Reach for the crackers I want you to give me
  • Turn my head away from something I don’t want
  • Push away an object I don’t want
  • Raise my arms to ask you to pick me up

Sounds & Words

I can use my voice to make different sounds to let you know how I feel.

  • Make joyful sounds while we play to let you know I am happy
  • Use a frustrated tone in my voice when you offer me a snack I don’t want
  • Make three different vocal sounds, like fussing, laughing, or blowing raspberries
  • Make two different vowel sounds like oooh, a-a-a, or eee
  • Use consonant and vowel sounds together like mamama, woo woo, gaga, or dada

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can explore objects and repeat different actions with objects.

  • Bang the pots and pans to make music
  • Chew on my plastic ring, then shake it and bang it
  • Bang my sippy cup on my tray, then tip it over, and bang it again
  • Tug on my sock and pull it off
  • Push the block off the table, smile when you give it back, then drop it again and laugh

Social Sharing with Objects

I enjoy and anticipate your actions.

  • Look at you and give you my spoon when I’m done eating
  • Pull the cloth off your head, laugh when you say peek-a-boo, and give it back to do it again
  • Take my favorite book out of a box and give it to you to read
  • Hold my arms up to help you get my shirt on
  • Hold out my hand, make a happy noise, and take a cracker you hand me

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I notice you and what you’re looking at.

  • Watch as you put dishes away while I eat my snack
  • Notice a picture you point to in a book, then look at you and look back at the book
  • Look at you when you get my favorite bath toy and give it to me
  • Watch you as you walk over to my crib and raise my arms for you to pick me up
  • Look at you to check in regularly while you push me in the grocery cart

Intentional Communication

I can let you know what I want and what I don’t want.

  • Reach up and look at you when I want you to pick me up
  • Push away the oatmeal bowl when I don’t want any more
  • Reach toward the banana I want on the counter and look back at you
  • Use an upset voice when I have a boo-boo to get you to comfort me
  • Make a silly sound and pat your arm to get you to pay attention to me

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can share happy moments when I interact with you.

  • Look toward you when you say I’m gonna get you and then crawl away from you giggling
  • Bounce and smile when you walk in the room and raise my arms to be picked up
  • Look at you and make playful sounds when you change my diaper
  • Pull on the blanket you’re hiding under and laugh when I find you
  • Look at you, smile, and make a happy sound when you squeak my favorite toy

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can share sad or frustrated feelings to get you to comfort me.

  • Cry and reach my arms out to you when I fall down trying to pull up on the furniture
  • Use a frustrated tone in my voice and look at you for help when I can’t pick up a piece of banana from my tray
  • Push your hand away and use a fussy voice to let you know I don’t want my jacket on
  • Cry, raise my arms, and look at you to get you to hold me when

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can guess what you’re about to do and use “hints” around me to understand your message.

  • Drop toys in the tub when you run the water because I figure out it’s time for my bath
  • Reach for my bib when you put me in my high chair because I realize it’s time to eat
  • Put my hands under the running water when you say Let’s wash your hands
  • Get my shoes when you point to them and say It’s time to go
  • Pull up my shirt and giggle when you say I’m gonna get you with a playful voice

Creating New Ideas

I notice you and listen to your voice to guide my actions.

  • Respond with a loud voice in my crib to answer back when I hear you call for me
  • Crawl into your lap and pull on your sleeve to get your attention when you are on the phone
  • Pull off my bib when you say All done after snack
  • Stop right away when you say No-no-no in a firm voice as I touch something I shouldn’t
  • Hold up my hands and open and close them when you start singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Age: 11-12 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can use gestures like showing and pointing to get you to notice what I am interested in.

  • Hold up my spoon just to show it to you
  • Wiggle my hand like I am trying to wave
  • Show you a block from the tower that just crashed
  • Tap a picture I want you to notice in a book
  • Point to the light to get you to notice it

Sounds & Words

I can use speech sounds together as if I am “talking” to you.

  • Use speech sounds like mama, baba, or dada when we interact
  • Combine sounds as if I’m talking to you when we’re getting my shoes on
  • Use a string of sounds together while we play a hiding game
  • Use different sounds while we are having a snack together
  • Use speech sounds as if we’re having a conversation

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can use functional actions with several objects.

  • Hold my sippy cup to my mouth and drink
  • Put finger foods in my mouth by myself
  • Put your phone to my ear and listen to grandma
  • Wipe my face with a napkin and drop it in the trash
  • Turn a page in a book

Social Sharing with Objects

I enjoy taking turns exchanging objects with you.

  • Roll a big ball or truck back and forth with you
  • Take turns putting a silly hat on your head, then on mine
  • Give you a toy that won’t work so you’ll fix it
  • Bang on a toy drum, then laugh and look at you when you drum on it too
  • Hold out my hand for you to give me some cheese, then give you a piece

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I am eager to interact with you and help keep the interaction going.

  • Take turns making silly sounds together
  • Pull the blanket off your head and give it back to you to keep a game of Peek-a-Boo going
  • Try to roll a ball back and forth with your encouragement
  • Take turns filling a cup and pouring the water out while taking a bath
  • Look at you, laugh, and make a game of dropping things from my tray to interact with you

Intentional Communication

I can get you to notice me and things I'm interested in.

  • Wiggle my body and make a silly sound to get you to dance with me
  • Point to a picture in a book I want you to see
  • Tap or point to a magnet on the refrigerator to get you to name it
  • Pick up a leaf and show it to you when we are walking in the backyard
  • Climb up in your lap when you are talking on the phone so you’ll pay attention to me

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can share enjoyment and flow with transitions between activities.

  • Look at you, smile, and make a silly sound to get you to laugh while you change my diaper
  • Give you my pail and shovel when it’s time to clean up the sandbox and go inside
  • Squeal with excitement and reach for my bib when you tell me it’s time for lunch
  • Look at you, smile, and help wipe my tray when you say Let’s finish snack and go outside
  • Raise my hands to be picked up from the bath and pat with the towel to help you dry me off

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can hang in there during a necessary activity and do things to make myself feel better.

  • Look at you and reach to request my pacifier for comfort when it’s time for a diaper change
  • Settle down when you hand me a bib to hold while I wait for my lunch
  • Calm down from fussing when you give me a sock to hold while you dress me
  • Take the washcloth you offer to help wipe my face after getting messy
  • Choose a favorite toy to play with while you buckle me in my car seat

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can follow simple directions like “come here” or “give it to me” when you ask me with gestures.

  • Crawl over to you when you hold out your arms and say Come here
  • Hold my foot up so you can put my sock on when you tap my leg and say Give me your foot
  • Crawl over to Daddy when you point to him and say Where’s daddy
  • Put my dirty shirt in the laundry hamper when you tell me to and open the lid
  • Look around for the ball when you hold out your hands and say Get the ball

Creating New Ideas

I watch you and try to do something with you or take on a job I can do with a little help.

  • Try to get the spoon to my mouth after you help me scoop up some yogurt
  • Rub my hands together with soap when you tell me to and then help you turn off the faucet
  • Watch you put a puzzle piece in and try to put one in myself
  • Wave and say Bye-bye after you show me how
  • Wipe my tray with a napkin when you show me how and say You can do it

13-14 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can learn new gestures like clapping and blowing a kiss by watching and imitating you.

  • Watch you clap your hands and try to do it myself
  • Try to wave when I see you wave goodbye to Grandma
  • Watch you blow a kiss and try to do it, too
  • Try to imitate when you show me simple gestures like shhh or stinky
  • Imitate some of your motions when we sing Itsy Bitsy Spider

Sounds & Words

I can use a few protowords or early forms of words in familiar situations.

  • Say uh-oh when something drops
  • Say baba when I want my bottle
  • Try to say vroom vroom when I push a toy car
  • Make animal sounds when we see animals in a favorite book
  • Imitate night-night when you put me to bed

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can use functional actions with you or a stuffed animal.

  • Brush your hair after watching you brush mine
  • Take a bite and then feed you with a spoon
  • Take my hat off and put it on your head
  • Try to put my sunglasses on my Teddy Bear
  • Cover my baby doll with a blanket and pat her to sleep

Social Sharing with Objects

I can learn new actions with objects by watching and imitating you.

  • Build a tower with blocks by taking turns with you
  • Put toy animals in a truck and push it after watching you do it
  • Watch Grandma put on her shoes and then try to put mine on too
  • Babble on my toy phone while you talk on your phone
  • Wipe my tray with a wet cloth after watching you do it

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I can watch you and imitate what you do and say.

  • Watch you blow a kiss, and try to do it myself
  • Hear you call the dog and imitate calling the dog’s name
  • Watch you move your hands and try to open and close my hands while we sing Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star
  • Pretend to talk on a phone like I’ve watched you do before
  • Say bye-bye after you say it when we wave goodbye to Grandma

Intentional Communication

I can communicate to share my enjoyment and interests with you.

  • Open my animal book and say woof-woof to get you to look at the dog picture
  • Say yum-yum and look at you when I see my yogurt snack
  • Point to the mail truck out the window and look back at you to make sure you saw it too

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can seek out situations that are fun, invite you to join me, and insist on being part of the action.

  • Pick out my favorite puzzle and bring you a puzzle piece to ask you to play with me
  • Climb in a cardboard box, look at you, and say Row-row to ask you to sing the Row your Boat song
  • Point to a puddle while we are walking outside to ask to splash
  • Crawl over to you while you’re putting clothes in the dryer and ask to push the button
  • Reach for your sunglasses and try to put them on to make you laugh

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can make it clear to you that I do not "want" something or do not want "to do" something.

  • Say no-no and turn my head away when you offer me food I don’t want
  • Shake my head and push the washcloth away when I am playing in the bathtub
  • Say all done and help clean up when I am done playing blocks
  • Protest and pull my spoon away when I want to keep eating

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can listen to you and try to figure out your message.

  • Try to follow your requests when it’s time to get dressed, like Give me your arm, Where’s your foot, Pull up
  • Help wipe my face and tray when you tell me it’s time to clean up from lunch
  • Listen and try to follow your rhythm when we play music together
  • Try to name the animals in my picture book when you say What’s this
  • Throw away the piece of paper I found on the floor when you tell me to

Creating New Ideas

I can communicate my preference when you offer several choices or let you know I want something else.

  • Use my voice and point to the book I want when you offer me a few books
  • Say no and push away the cereal I don’t like, then reach for the bananas
  • Say Quack-quack for my toy duck when you ask what I’d like to carry to the bathtub
  • Point and say Dat when you give me a choice of shoes to wear outside
  • Reach and say Swing when I want to get out of the wagon and get in the swing

Age: 15-16 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can use symbolic gestures to share ideas with you.

  • Give you a high five when we celebrate
  • Pinch my nose when I notice something stinky
  • Point to a bird I see outside the window so you will notice it
  • Nod my head or give a thumbs-up to answer yes
  • Shrug my shoulders as if to say I don’t know

Sounds & Words

I can use at least 5 different words that mean something to both of us.

  • Say hi and bye to greet people
  • Use words to request things I want like ball, eat, banana
  • Say no or bye-bye to let you know I do not want something
  • Use words for important people or animals like mommy, auntie, dada, doggie
  • Say more or again to ask for more or another turn

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can use pretend actions with objects that have imagined things from everyday activities.

  • Pretend to stir with a big spoon and scoop pretend food onto a plate when we play picnic
  • Feed my teddy bear with pretend milk in a bottle
  • Pretend to pour juice into a cup and take a drink
  • Push a toy train and make a Choo-Choo sound
  • Put my feet in boxes and pretend they are shoes

Social Sharing with Objects

I can use objects in a silly, playful way and in a way that helps you get things done.

  • Put a cracker on my nose to be silly and get your attention while eating my snack
  • Put a box on my head to hide and to initiate peek-a-boo
  • Push the laundry hamper down the hallway and say vroom-vroom
  • Wipe my tray with a paper towel then crumble it up like a ball and toss it in the trash
  • Help you sweep the floor with a broom and then try to hold the dustpan

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I can communicate to get your attention and check in with you regularly.

  • Call out for you when I wake up from my nap
  • Say Mama to get your attention while you’re washing dishes and then ask for more juice
  • Look at you to check in while I am sitting across the room with Aunt Maria
  • Look at you and tap your arm to show you how I make my bath toy squirt
  • Call for you and wave when you come to pick me up from daycare

Intentional Communication

I try to figure out what you mean and keep the interaction going.

  • Put on my shoes when you point to them and say Let’s get ready to go outside
  • Hold out my hands to get the next apple and put it in the bag at the grocery store
  • Pick up my clothes when you ask me to help you put them all in the laundry hamper
  • Watch and listen when we play Ring-around-the-Rosie to know when to stop and fall down
  • Shrug my shoulders when you ask me something I don’t understand

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can stay active and engaged with you in fun situations and in necessary activities.

  • Hang in there with you while we get all of the laundry out of the dryer
  • Work with you to get all of the toys picked up before we go outside
  • Help you water the plants outside with my little watering can
  • Get motivated to brush my teeth when you sing a tooth-brushing song
  • Go along with putting my shoes on even though I’d rather wear my boots

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can tolerate you helping me stick with a task, even when I am upset.

  • Let you finish cleaning my face with a cloth after I protest and push it away
  • Let you blow bubbles if I can hold the bubble wand when I am frustrated that I can’t do it
  • Help you put my toys away even though I am not ready to take a bath
  • Let you guide me back inside even though I’m whining and want to stay outside and play
  • Let you help me with my spoon for a few bites even though I’m frustrated and want to do it myself

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can respond when you talk to me and share my ideas with you.

  • Respond by saying Yummy when you ask about my yogurt
  • I point and say Tree, uh oh, when we discover a big limb that fell down in our yard
  • Say Puppy night-night and use the shhh gesture when you show me a picture of a dog sleeping
  • Say No with a fussy voice when you tell me it’s almost time to leave the park
  • Pull up the stool and say Help when you tell me it’s time to wash the dishes

Creating New Ideas

I can be productive doing my job and stand my ground with you.

  • Take the comb and say Mine when you try to help because I want to do it myself
  • Insist I take my favorite cup to the sink instead of you taking it
  • Pull my hands away and say Me wash because I want to show you I can wash my hands
  • Help pull the clothes out of the dryer and insist on being the one to close the door when we’re done
  • Tell you I want to pull my pants up by myself while you help me get them on

Age: 17-18 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can look at you and use a gesture and word together to tell you what I am thinking.

  • Reach toward you and say baba excitedly when I see you coming with my bottle
  • Point and say truck to ask for my favorite truck on the shelf
  • Show you my favorite blanket while looking at you and saying blankie
  • Look at Grandma, wave, and say bye-bye
  • Shake my head and tell you no when I do not want something

Sounds & Words

I can use at least 10 different words that mean something to both of us.

  • Tell you what I want to eat like cookie, banana, yogurt, crackers, juice
  • Say object names such as book, car, keys, cup, shoe
  • Use descriptive words like all-gone, stinky, loud
  • Point to and name animals like cow, birdy, kitty when we look at books together
  • Name a body part such as eye, nose, or tummy when you ask me

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can pretend using new actions that you show me or tell me to do.

  • Pretend to take the baby doll’s temperature after you show me how
  • Pretend to shake salt into my play pots and then stir like I’ve seen you do
  • Hold a stick and string and pretend to go fishing when you show me how
  • Sing along and try to blow the candles out with you on the pretend cake for Bear’s birthday
  • Pretend to fix a wheel on my toy truck that is broken

Social Sharing with Objects

I can use several objects together to build or create something with you.

  • Build a big tower with shoe boxes and get your attention before knocking it down
  • Take turns putting cars in a bucket and pretend we are washing them
  • Use a box to make a bed for my baby doll with a pillow and a blanket
  • Line up my trucks and take turns drawing lines for a road with chalk on the sidewalk
  • Make balls with Playdoh and put them together with you to build a snowman

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I can hang in and do something with you and monitor what you're paying attention to.

  • Pull out a slice of bread, hand it to you, and wait until you’re done spreading jelly to give you the next slice
  • Take each piece of silverware from you after you dry it and put it in the drawer
  • Pull the laundry hamper down the hall with you and hand you clothes to put in the washer
  • Help you water with my watering can after you put each seed in the dirt
  • Hold out my arm as you put on my shirt, then hold out the other arm, and tuck my head as you pull it on

Intentional Communication

I try to help you know what I mean by adding information to my message.

  • Pull you to my closet and point to my truck when you don’t understand I’m asking for that
  • Let you know I don’t want the cereal you are offering and bring you the one I want
  • Take my shoes and go to the door to make it clear I want to go outside
  • Say Duck-duck to let you know I want my duck pajamas, not something else
  • Hold my arms out like wings to ask you to help me find my favorite toy airplane

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can get motivated or settle down with the help of your words and stay available for learning.

  • Stop protesting and sit down to put my shoes on when you remind me that we can go outside
  • Settle down after being frustrated by a toy because your words are calming and help me to keep playing
  • Calm down even when I’m hungry and use my words when you offer me a choice of snacks
  • Help you take my clothes off and put my bathing suit on when you tell me it is time to go swimming
  • Let you hold my hand so I can carry the mail as we walk back to the house and open a card from Grandpa

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can shift attention from something I want to do and engage in a different activity with you.

  • Get my pajamas on even though I don’t want to, when you say we can read my favorite book before bedtime
  • Turn off my favorite TV show to greet Grandpa at the door
  • Agree to not splash water when you show me how to make my boat go fast and slow in the bathtub
  • Put down the iPad when you suggest we go play on the swing
  • Accept a one-more-minute warning then come in from water play outside

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can understand words without gestures in familiar situations.

  • Take my napkin and put it in the trash when you tell me to
  • Touch my eyes, nose, and belly when you ask me to
  • Find the truck and the school bus when you ask me to point to them in my book
  • Bring you a big leaf when you ask me to find one as we walk to the mailbox
  • Go find Grandma and say Come Nana when you ask me to tell her it’s time for dinner

Creating New Ideas

I notice opportunities for interaction and learning and can get myself involved.

  • Ask you to pick me up when you use the microwave so I can push the Start button
  • Ask Grandpa to put shaving cream on my face so I can pretend to shave when I see him shaving
  • Show you the rock I found and put it in my basket while collecting things on our walk
  • Make silly noises to get my baby sister to laugh during her diaper change
  • Help you sort the laundry so I can put clothes in the washer with you

Age: 19-20 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can use my words to share something interesting and to protest something I don’t want.

  • Use my words to ask for juice or a snack when I am hungry
  • Say no, mine, or stop when I want you to stop doing something
  • Say no, gone, or bye-bye when I don’t want something you have offered
  • Use words to show you something that just happened like uh-oh juice, truck beep-beep
  • Say that or the object name to point out something interesting

Sounds & Words

I can use at least 20 words to name people, animals, body parts, objects, actions, and places.

  • Name things that we have seen together like horsie, bird, cow, doggie, bunny
  • Use names for more people like Mimi, Nana, Pop-Pop, brother, and sister
  • Use descriptive words like mine, big, hot, dirty
  • Use action words like do, help, see, push, open, kiss, go, sleep
  • Name places we go together like outside, park, store, Papa house

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can pretend using actions with imagined things from less familiar activities.

  • Pour pretend batter into a pan and flip the pancakes when you tell me they’re ready
  • Pretend to give my teddy bear a shot, then offer him a hug to comfort him
  • Cook some pretend soup in a pan, scoop a spoonful, and blow on it before feeding my stuffed animal
  • Sprread my arms and pretend to fly like the other kids at the park
  • Pretend to make my toy fish swim under water and then do a flip when I am in the bathtub

Social Sharing with Objects

I can combine different types of materials to create a play scenario with you.

  • Put blocks on a plate and pretend I’m eating cookies with you
  • Make a pretend road with blocks and take turns pushing my truck down the road
  • Make a pizza out of sand, sticks, grass, and acorns and offer you some
  • Put on a hat and hold a long tube and show you how I pretend to be a firefighter putting out a fire
  • Dress up in your scarf and boots and pretend to visit Grandma

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I am eager to share my interests and ideas with you.

  • Say Woof-woof, doggie to tell you about the dog I saw outside
  • Say Mama, pat-pat to share excitement about helping you flatten out the pizza dough
  • Show you my crayon drawing and say Mama, Dada, house to describe it
  • Say Red leaf and show you a special leaf I found while raking leaves together
  • Pull the stool over and say My help to ask if you can drop your clothes into the washing machine

Intentional Communication

I can persist in communicating my message to you.

  • Say More juice, more apple juice and then show you my empty cup to make it clear I need more juice
  • Call Mommy, mommy and then say Come get me when I wake up in my crib
  • Say No-no Daddy and shake my head to let you know I don’t want you to leave for work
  • Say Help, My do, Puzzle no, when I try but can’t get the puzzle piece to fit in
  • Say Keep light on when you put me to bed and add My scared, Mommy to let you know why

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can share enjoyment with my words and gestures and stay engaged in the activity with you.

  • Look at an animal book with you, show you animals I like, and make the animal sound when you point to a picture
  • Enjoy having a snack with you and imitating new words like open, pour, take one, crunchy
  • Sing along, clap, and pretend to play my guitar with you when we listen to our favorite music
  • Call out Where are you and wave for you to come as we search for big brother in the back yard
  • Say Silly when you put Mr. Potato Head’s foot in the wrong place, then point to where it’s supposed to go

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can say or do something that helps me manage my emotions and stay focused in a necessary activity.

  • Ask for my favorite blanket to calm me when it’s time to come in from playing outside
  • Say My help when I pull the laundry hamper down the hall and wait for you to show me which clothes go in
  • Settle down and let you help me get into another activity when I’m upset that an activity has ended
  • Ask you to come help after I spill my Cheerios and then help sweep them up
  • Pick out a washcloth from the closet and ask for bubble soap while you fill the tub with water

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can follow simple directions when you ask me to do something.

  • Take the washcloth and wipe my face when you ask me to.
  • Throw something away when you say Please pick it up, take it to the kitchen, and put it in the trash
  • Go to the cupboard, open it, and give the dog a treat when you ask me to
  • Pull my socks and shirt off when you ask me to get ready for bed
  • Put the toys in a box and put the box on the shelf when you ask me to pick up my toys

Creating New Ideas

I can recognize a problem or challenge and try to figure out what to do.

  • Look all over the house to find my shoes when you tell me it’s time to go outside
  • Go to the kitchen and get a towel to wipe up the juice I spilled
  • Lift the pillows on the couch to search for my toy plane
  • Try a few different pieces to fix my toy train track
  • Try hard to push the door and then ask for help to open it so I can go outside with Grandpa

Age: 21-22 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can learn many new words every week and use them to share ideas with you.

  • Share my ideas such as big balloon, ride horsey, scary dog
  • Comment on things disappearing like bubbles bye-bye, milk gone
  • Use more descriptive words like red truck, big ball, mommy up, no night-night
  • Use more action words like daddy sweep, mommy up, blocks fall down
  • Use words you didn’t hear me use last week

Sounds & Words

I can use at least 50 words and combine two words to convey different meanings.

  • Use phrases to ask for more of something like more cookie or tickle again
  • Use words to share how I feel like sad or mommy happy
  • Use words to tell you what happened like daddy work, juice done, truck bye-bye
  • Use words to tell you who things belong to like mommy shoe, my cup, doggie ball
  • Use word combinations to describe things like dirty diaper, that ball, nice kitty

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can combine two different pretend actions with imagined things in a play scenario.

  • Help roll out the Playdoh and cut cookies, then pretend to put sprinkles on and bake them
  • Make my toy horse run and then eat pretend grass
  • Put on a sheet and pretend it is a cape and I am flying
  • Climb on a big box and pretend I am fishing in a boat
  • Use a paper towel roll and make noise in it like it’s a trumpet and march around

Social Sharing with Objects

I can tell you about my play scenario and invite you to play with me.

  • Ask you to help me stack up boxes to build a pretend house
  • Find a stick and string for each of us and ask you to play fishing with me
  • Get my shoes then tell you I want to go outside with you to make mud pies in the sandbox
  • Invite you to go on a picnic with my teddy bear and me
  • Say Wanna play horsie and ask to climb on your back and pretend you’re a horse

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I can take a few turns sharing my ideas and listening to your ideas.

  • Tell you about my leaf and look to see other things you point to outside
  • Show you the buttons on my jacket and then look when you show me the zipper on your jacket
  • Look at your new hat and I go get mine to show you
  • Point to a train in my favorite book and name it, then turn the page and look at one you point out
  • Try to reach the ball that rolled under the counter and ask you to help use my stick to get it

Intentional Communication

I can ask you about things that I don't know.

  • Say Where kitty when it’s time to feed the cat and she is not around
  • Say What Grandpa do when he is working out in the garage
  • Say What’s that when we look at pictures in a book and I don’t know the name
  • Take turns talking about people we see when we go to Grandma’s house
  • Ask you what’s in a pumpkin pie

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can use my words to ask you to help me get motivated or settle down.

  • Bring my shoes to you and say Help Mommy when I get frustrated trying to put them on myself
  • Say Push me to get you to help me scoot my chair closer to the table so I can play with my big sister
  • Ask to take my favorite book in the car when you tell me it’s time to go pick up Daddy
  • Say Purple spoon when you tell me it’s time to take my medicine
  • Say No read books when you ask if I’m all done after I push the books away

Regulating Challenging Moments

My very upset moments are getting briefer and I can flow with unpleasant or unexpected situations.

  • Get mad when you say All done watching TV but calm down when you give me choices of other things to play with
  • Get upset when we can’t go outside to play because it’s raining but feel better when you suggest we bake cookies
  • Begin to cry then ask you for a kiss and Band-Aid when I fall down and skin my knee
  • Help clean up my toys even though I protest that I want to do something else
  • Calm down by sitting in my rocking chair with my doll, when the smoke alarm goes off and scares me

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can observe and listen to you to know what I am supposed to do and go along with your plan.

  • Get my backpack and go to the door when you say It’s time to go
  • Clean my face when you ask me to, then wipe my tray
  • Get the watering can, fill it up, and help you water plants in the garden
  • Watch you when we play Itsy Bitsy Spider and try to make the up and down hand movements
  • Watch you stir, scoop, and pour batter into the pan and then take a turn when we make pancakes together

Creating New Ideas

I can come up a creative idea and let you know my plan.

  • Put a blanket over the table and crawl under it to show you the tent I made
  • Show you the dirt on the floor and tell you I’m going to get the broom
  • Ask you to push the big stroller while I push my doll in the little stroller
  • Try to dig a hole with the big shovel and fill up the wagon with dirt to move it to the driveway
  • Turn my book into a ramp and show you how fast I can make my toy car roll down

Age: 23-24 months

1. Language

Gestures & Meanings

I can use phrases that describe things and request new information.

  • Use phrases to ask questions like where daddy go or what doggie do
  • Say what’s that to ask for the name of things
  • Use phrases to describe things like no touch hot, my shoe stuck, or my ball gone-gone
  • Use words to describe locations like up, out, in, off, on
  • Use phrases to deny or refute something like no baby, not shoe, this ball not that one

Sounds & Words

I can use at least 100 words in phrases that include names, actions, and descriptions.

  • Use phrases with agents and actions like mommy kiss, doggie run, daddy throw, baby sleep
  • Use phrases to describe actions and objects like car go fast, tree so big, truck loud, want red cup, put on table
  • 'Combine words that describe something not there like grandma go home, no more beans, blocks all gone
  • Use phrases with agents, actions, and objects like mommy kiss baby, kitty eat food, daddy push car, mommy get bottle
  • Use phrases to solve problems and feel better like ball stuck daddy

2. Play

Using Actions with Objects

I can combine several different pretend actions in a logical sequence.

  • Put sand and stones in my dump truck, drive it over to the pretend building site, and dump it out
  • Give my toy bear a bottle, burp him, and then change his diaper
  • Color an envelope and pretend to mail a letter by putting it in a shoebox
  • Put my toy animals in a bucket, pretend to give them a bath, then dry them with a towel
  • Pretend to wash my toy dishes, put them on a counter to dry, and then put them away

Social Sharing with Objects

I can begin to take on a make-believe role in a pretend play scenario with you.

  • Pretend to ride in a tractor and put our hats on while we’re reading a book about the farm
  • Pretend to serve you food and pour you a drink at our make-believe restaurant
  • Pile up sofa cushions with you and pretend we are climbing a mountain
  • Put boxes in my wagon and pretend we are at the grocery store, then pay you when I leave
  • Pretend to be the doctor and listen to your heart while we play

3. Social interactions

Social Attention

I can talk with you about a topic I'm interested in like we're having a conversation.

  • Start talking about the tree that fell down while on our walk together
  • Point out and name the horses and cows I see while driving in the car
  • Talk about the different balloons I see at the grocery store
  • Ask what happened to the big pile of leaves we saw in the backyard
  • Talk about what we can make with Playdoh today

Intentional Communication

I can let you know how I feel and negotiate when things don’t go my way.

  • Tell you Mad and stomp my feet, when you ask me to put my favorite toy away
  • Say No leave Mimi with a sad face when it’s time to go home from visiting Grandma
  • Say One more time slide when you tell me it’s time to leave the park
  • Help figure out what we can do together inside after hearing it’s snowing and we can’t go to the park
  • Let you know I’m mad that you

4. Emotional regulation

Sharing & Managing Emotions

I can use my words to share moments of success with you.

  • Go to the drawer, find the ice cream scoop, and tell you I got the big spoon
  • Say My help when I hold my foot up and step into my pajamas.
  • Put my shoe on, close the Velcro strap, then look at you and say Look, I do it
  • Say Mommy watch this when I squirt the hose and help water plants
  • Say Papa look as I balance a box on my head

Regulating Challenging Moments

I can calm myself down, come back to you, and communicate what I want or need.

  • After getting upset when I’m told I can’t have snack, I come back and ask if we can go outside
  • Calm down and say That’s mine after brother takes my favorite truck
  • Run out of the room when you tell me it’s time to go to bed and then bring you my favorite book
  • Say No-no and stomp my feet when you don’t give me my own snack bowl, but then say Get my bowl
  • Say My banana and pout when you ask me to share with sister, but calm down when you say Ask her to pour you milk

5. Self-directed learning

Understanding Messages

I can create opportunities to learn about things that interest me in everyday situations.

  • Walk into the kitchen with my bare feet and tell you it’s cold
  • Ask you Where they go when the fireflies light up and then disappear while we search for them in the back yard
  • Bring a worm I found in the garden, show you how it wiggles, and ask Where him ears
  • Help Mommy make a smoothie then tell daddy what we put in it—Banana, salad, and milk
  • Look at picture in book and say Mommy look, Teddy bear make dough and Mommy says Like the cookie dough we made

Creating New Ideas

I can try out new things and seek out new opportunities for learning.

  • Put on a raincoat and boots so we can take a walk and splash in puddles
  • Help wash the car and learn how to spray with the hose to rinse
  • Help find the bananas to put in my little cart while we go grocery shopping
  • Find a pinecone outside and ask you what it is
  • Climb through the new tunnel at the park and find you in the look-out window

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FIRST WORDS® Project is a longitudinal research investigation in the Florida State University Autism Institute, directed by Dr. Amy Wetherby. Our goal is to identify early signs of communication delays in young children by improving screening tools and helping families support child development. Copyright © 2019 Florida State University. All rights reserved.

First Words Project, Florida State University (2019)

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