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How many words would you expect a 21 month old to say? (on average)

(33 Posts)
PyjamasNotBananas Mon 23-Sep-13 13:46:38


I know it's a bit like asking how long is a piece of string because it's so varied but when do you recognise it as a speech delay or a problem that needs addressing?

My DS2 is 21 months old today and I seem to be surrounded by toddlers speaking in sentences! I know I shouldn't compare but it's impossible not to worry. I can't really remember when DS1 had that language explosion but I do remember he was talking in simple 4-5 word sentences at his second birthday party. DS2 seems so far away from this.

He has about 50 words which he uses regularly. Some are very clear such as 'Mummy' 'Daddy' 'bus' 'car' 'ball' 'more' 'flower' 'keys' 'Nanna' 'Bye Bye'.

However the rest of his words are still quite babbled and although me and DH understand them, a lot of people wouldn't. Example he says windmill as 'ninmil', sun is more like 'zun' and digger is 'digdigdig' some of them are just the sound instead of the full word so cup he says 'ca ca ca' when he wants a drink.

Does this sound 'normal'? I realise there is a huge range of normal but I just seem to think DS1 was speaking more clearly by this age.

So is 50 words OK at this age or do you think I need to speak to the Health Visitor? People seem to be talking to him at the school when I pick DS1 up and asking DS2 questions and looking quite surprised and confused when he doesn't know how to answer them. It's just made me wonder if I should be concerned.

LunaticFringe Mon 23-Sep-13 13:52:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PyjamasNotBananas Mon 23-Sep-13 14:14:37

Thank you LunaticFridge That's reassuring. grin at your DD looking forward to being 2! I seem to think DS1 was like that by this age. I remember him being very excited and telling people it was nearly his second birthday party. There is just no way on earth that DS2 would be able to verbalise that or even understand what a birthday is at this point sad .

Thurlow Mon 23-Sep-13 14:22:04

20m probably has 50+ words but she doesn't use all of them off her own back. She can repeat words back or say them if I point to the object or a picture and encourage her, but I'd say there are at the moment 20 or so words which she actively uses without prompting and they are the very basic ones. I think we're just seeing the very beginnings of her trying to string more than one word together or try and explain a concept to us. I'm no expert but this seems about the same as the other children of a similar age I know. In fact I don't know any that are talking in sentances yet! Maybe you're just seeing lots of older kids that look younger?!

superzero Mon 23-Sep-13 14:28:57

50 words at 21m is absolutely fine.
DS2 was referred to ST at 2 when he had about 20 and they weren't even concerned when he was actually seen at 26m and had 50 words then(which have increased dramatically to all sorts of things by 2.5).

Sittingbull Mon 23-Sep-13 14:30:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PyjamasNotBananas Mon 23-Sep-13 14:31:00

Mmm there could be some truth in that Thurlow DS2 is pretty big for his age (99th centile) so he looks like the average 3 year old. Maybe this is colouring my view of how I see things a bit. I seem to look at kids the same size as him and assume they're a similar age which is totally inaccurate. I think DS2's size is misleading for other people too though, perhaps they assume he's older so expect more from him in terms of his understanding and communication skills.

I just remember DS1 being a lot more verbal by this point but again that may not be entirely accurate as DS1 is now 6 years old. Just wanted to check that it doesn't need assessing further. I'd hate to leave him to it when I could be helping him.

Sittingbull Mon 23-Sep-13 14:35:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IHeartIona Mon 23-Sep-13 14:41:22

Also perhaps other people think your son is older when they talk to him. I also think people forget when small ones start talking if theirs are a bit older. Your son sounds fine to me too.

PyjamasNotBananas Mon 23-Sep-13 14:47:29

Well thank you very much everyone. Yes Sittingbull, I heard something similar about reading and I do read to both the boys every day. I am never quite sure how much of it DS2 is actually understanding though. DS1 asks questions and can easily retell me the story or make up another story related to it but obviously it's not so easy with DS2 to really see any reward he's getting from it yet. I sit and do a lot of picture books with him and he can point at certain pictures when I ask him where they are. He will make animal noises relating to the pictures etc so he must be understanding some of it. He is also very good at following instructions like 'come into the living room' 'go and sit on the chair please' 'let's go get your shoes' 'go get in the pushchair' 'put this in the bin please' etc so I am assuming he's OK. It's always good to get others opinions though or else I'll only worry and make an issue where there isn't one. Joys of being a mother! Thank you again for everyone's input.

VelvetStrider Mon 23-Sep-13 15:05:11

He's a second child, and for some reason second children, in my experience, tend to talk later and walk earlier than first children. I don't know if any research has been done about this, but it has been the case in almost every set of siblings I know.
I have heard a theory that second children communicate through first children so don't need to talk so early, or perhaps as parents we can give more attention to language development when we only have one child. I know my second child is still only saying single words at nearly 23 months. My first, at his 2 year check, said 'I'm tired Mummy, can I go and have a sleep'. But then DC2 was walking at 11 months and has been able to do forward rolls by herself for ages, so earlier with the physical abilities.
I'm sure it evens itself out in the end!

stopgap Mon 23-Sep-13 17:23:48

Mine had more than 50 words at 21 months, BUT the vast majority were first syllable only.

He's 2.1 now, and in the last two weeks he's had a word explosion. He has loads of words, most of which are the full word, and he uses lots of two-, three- and four-word sentences. Something like, "(Name) play basketball hoops" is now really clear, whereas it was "pl bask" up until a fortnight ago. My little boy was definitely a bit slow to get going (he only had three words at 18 months) but he is coming on leaps and bounds.

stopgap Mon 23-Sep-13 17:29:48

Re: the reading thing, mine has always loved books, and is forever trying to foist one in my hand. He already knows all the Beatrix Potter stories, and his current obsession is "Tony's Bread" (aimed at 5-8 year-old kids) from which he knows all the characters, can tell me the basic plot line etc. So even though his language skills have thus far appeared really basic, I know that his understanding and reasoning is great for a 2-year-old. If you can attest to the latter, everything will be fine.

But yes, reading is excellent grin

PeggyCarter Mon 23-Sep-13 17:33:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

breatheslowly Mon 23-Sep-13 18:22:19

Try this then see how he fits on the centile here

Misty9 Mon 23-Sep-13 19:21:51

My two yr old had about 20 words at 21months and now at just two he talks in very simple sentences, for example, books slippy. His language has exploded in the last month so I wouldn't worry about your littlest one smile

Mutley77 Tue 24-Sep-13 01:40:19

I can remember clearly that my ds barely had a word at that age. I was worried sick as dc1 was saying full sentences very clearly at that stage. However to reassure you he is now coming up to 5 with v clear speech and I have had comments on his extensive vocabulary, although I know it's not totally exceptional given my older dc was much further ahead at his age!

PyjamasNotBananas Tue 24-Sep-13 19:40:19

Thank you again to everyone who responded. I'm feeling much calmer about it today. He actually has more words than I thought. He's coming out with new ones every day. Me and DS1 were making a cheesecake this afternoon and DS2 said 'whisk' unprompted and kept saying it until I gave him the whisk to lick grin He also said 'go away' earlier hmm

He's getting quite whingy and crying a fair bit lately. Does anyone know if this could be linked to frustration? He seems to be trying to do things he can't and saying things we don't understand and he dissolves into tears. sad

stopgap Tue 24-Sep-13 20:23:31

My son is the same, Pyjamas, in terms of the whining and clinging. In fact, we entered a toddler gym class this morning with me waddling ahead, and my son behind, his head firmly wedged between my legs grin. I try and stave off the clinging by reading him lots of books while he's sat on my knee, or holding him while I cook and talking him through a recipe. He was a velcro maximus baby, and still needs that contact in order to have long moments of independent play away from me.

As for the whining, I tell him it hurts my ears and can he please use his words, which is working more and more as a tactic.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 25-Sep-13 13:31:40

OP, if your son is 21 months, there is a still a good chunk of time before he turns 2 (which is the point you remember his brother well talking at).

Mine is 23 months. The change in his speech from 21 months has been dramatic. He is now putting two words together. He might possibly be doing little sentences by 2.

His sister was more verbal though, just like your DS1. That said, DS at 23 months is well on his way to mastering the balance bike, something that DD was 3.2 before she got the knack of!

somewherebecomingrain Wed 25-Sep-13 19:34:00

My ds said his FIRST word, 'bee', at 21 months.

Now he's 4 and three quarters, my fears about his speech are a distant memory as he's very articulate, he has started school and the teacher has praised his vocabulary.

However he still has reluctance to answer questions - it appears as if he's got terrible selective hearing. the teacher has said he may actually have a hearing problem so I'm taking him to the doctor.

LadyGoodman Wed 25-Sep-13 20:31:35

Sounds just like my 21mo though am not sure he even has 50 words. He's also 99th centile, has great understanding of instructions, animal noises, can pick out images from books I.e where's the car, bus, cow BUT he doesn't really talk much. We have a lot of see, sit, more, me the closest thing to a sentence we've had is where's my mummy and that was a while ago. My cm keeps mentioning it as he is so developed in all other ways so went to see dr last week in case his issues are related to his hearing but they not keen to do a hearing test at the moment.

I'm sure it'll come in time but I also find it hard not to compare with others his age

LittlePicnic Wed 25-Sep-13 20:38:25

DC2 was saying about the same as yours two months ago when he was 20 months old, then two weeks ago started using 4-5 word sentences almost overnight! Their development can be so rapid, so don't worry. I was saying to DH that he must have understood so much more for a while than we realised to take his vocabulary and make such an advancement. Please don't worry.

stringornothing Wed 25-Sep-13 20:42:22

From What to Expect... I remember 50 as being the top end of normal for 18 months, so it's still above average for 21 months. Keep talking and reading; you're doing fine.

domesticslattern Wed 25-Sep-13 20:52:34

It's a lovely age when they seemingly have a new word every day. Your DS sounds utterly adorable. I have a 20 month old DD2 and think she is a genius every time she says apple, never ever would have thought 50 words cause for concern- quite the opposite! !
You do remember that soon they will never shut up?? smile

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