38 answers

How to Teach an 18 Month Old

I recently went to a restaurant where a little girl (same age as my little girl, 18 to 19 months) was there with her parents. I started talking to the parents and of course my little girl was interested in the little girl. Turns out the little girl knew her abc's and could say them fairly clear. Could talk in fairly complete sentences and could even spell a few words. I was wondering from any of you moms out there, what method of teaching do you teach a child like that. I would love to do that at home with her but I haven't the first clue as to what to do or how to do it. Any suggestions would be great.

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From what I have experienced, they learn from repitition. My son is 13 months old and is trying to repeat the ABC's when I sing it to him. I try to sing it everyday a couple of times a day. When they hear it then it becomes routine and they memorize it. It is when they get to school that it becomes meaningful.

Sing, play and read A LOT. She will learn so much just from talking and playing with you. My girls LOVE music, which is so beneficial. Don't compare....each child is special in their own way! Have fun!

My son didnt do those things at that age but he is seven now and is the top of his class. All I did is read to him all the time. Hope this helps

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That child you met is not the norm for verbal function at 18 mos. I knew an 18 month old who could talk like that but was just learning to walk, and one who could carry on adult-like conversation (and walk!), but of all the (many) young kids I know, they are exceptions.

I know I'm echoing what most people have responded with so far, but hopefully it should drive the point home. Read every day, and talk to your child about what's going on in her world. Provide letters and numbers for her (posters, placemats, books, fridge magnets, foam bath letters, etc.), sing her the ABC song, but don't push her to learn things like letters and numbers if she doesn't seem particularly interested yet. She's only 18 months old after all, and she has plenty of time left before she needs to know that stuff.

Also, figure out what things do interest her and focus on those. For instance, my oldest (now 3 1/2) is only just now getting interested in letter recognition, but he knows far more than most kids his age about planets, is fantastic with a pair of scissors, and loves to do mazes--all things we've encouraged because they interested him. At this age IT'S MORE IMPORTANT TO TEACH A LOVE OF LEARNING NEW THINGS THAN TO DRILL ANY PARTICULAR FACTS INTO THEIR HEADS. :)

1 mom found this helpful

You are probably going to hear this a lot, but remember everyone develops at different levels. An 18 month old that can spell a few words? She is very advanced. And I think it's great she could say her ABC's, but again, that is not incredibly common for that age. However, if you want to have fun with your daughter and still teach her things at the same time, that would be my best advice. I agree with the other mom who recommended using music. That is one of the best tools for little ones this age. ABC's and other number and letter songs (you can buy a variety of CD's online). Flashcards worked great for me. I have a 27 month old, and he loves them. I also bought sponge letters, numbers and shapes for the bathtub, and my son could stay in there forever, so it's a good chance for us to learn while he's playing. My advise if your toddler starts acting bored or walks away from the "learning" games or flashcards, just let them go. Forcing them to learn or do an activity if they aren't ready will only frustrate them more. Just have fun and encourage her!

We did this with both our 4 yr old and 6 yr old. We just, ever since they were born, talked to them. Instead of baby talking or doing many rhymes with them... we would hold them and say "a b c" or "1 2 3".

We actually had no idea what to do in this respect. My father, a truck driver, started it. He talked to them non-stop. We picked up the habit... and they are both extremely intelligent and pick up stuff easily.. (if I do say so myself :) )

From what I have experienced, they learn from repitition. My son is 13 months old and is trying to repeat the ABC's when I sing it to him. I try to sing it everyday a couple of times a day. When they hear it then it becomes routine and they memorize it. It is when they get to school that it becomes meaningful.

Buy the Leap Frog video called The Letter Factory. It is great! It teaches the letters and the sounds they make. By the time she was 2, my daughter knew all the letters and the sounds they make. You could ask her what the Q says and she could tell you. There are a whole series of these videos that teach reading as wll (The Word Factory, Code Word Caper, and the Storybook factory). There is also a board game called the Letter Factory. It is based on the video. No reading required. There are 2 levels to play. They also have a math video called The Math Circus. It teaches counting to 20 and simple addition and subtraction.

my little girl is 21 months old and speaks in 2 or 3 word sentences, can count to 10 with help, and will repeat pretty much anything you ask her too. i chalk a lot of her vocabulary to the fact that i started reading to her the day we brought her home from the hospital and we always spoke plain english to her...no baby gibberish. she also watches educational tv shows...seseme street, dora, barney. kids that age learn from repetition so just practice with her. my girl also has lot of educational toys that do colors, numbers and letters...v-tech makes some outstanding toys for babies and toddlers. but all kids learn at there pace...jsut becasue she hasn't learned as much another doesn't mean she's behind, and just becasue the other child has learned a little more doesn't necessarily meaned she advanced. as lond as she can say some words and reponds to your voice and is able to communicate in some way, i'm sure she's fine.

First, I would say try not to compare your child with another. I know that's hard to do. Each child develops at his or her own rate. That said, if you want to work with her on her abc's I would say the key is repetition without pressure. Sing the abc song while you give her a bath or get her dressed - don't try to "teach" it to her. She'll pick it up. Also, reading books together - even the same ones over and over - is a great way to introduce a child to a new concept. Good Luck!

Sing, play and read A LOT. She will learn so much just from talking and playing with you. My girls LOVE music, which is so beneficial. Don't compare....each child is special in their own way! Have fun!

Talk to her all day long, and read her tons of books. If you try to get all serious about "teaching" her she'll balk.

First and foremost, I have to say... AAAAACK! Be careful not to start comparing your toddler's development to other toddlers you meet. The alphabet, speaking in sentences, and spelling seems freakishly advanced for an 18 month old. Good for them, but don't make that your standard if your daughter is not quite there. She'll get there soon enough. As far as teaching her, speaking to her with clearly articulated words (not baby talk), singing together, and reading books with her will really lay the groundwork for her language skills... As you said, you're enjoying her, so enjoy her development at her pace. You can teach her Latin next year! By the way, my 22 month has a Spanish speaking daycare teacher, so she comes home with words in Spanish, too. Fun!

Wow, an 18 month old speaking in complete sentences is truely amazing. I have a pretty smart kid and he didn't even do that. He speaks in complete sentences at 2 1/2 and his pediatrician said that was advanced. My sons learning is mostly self-directed. He wants to learn stuff he's interested in and snubs everything else. I would focus on building her imagination and worry about the school stuff later. You don't want her buring out or getting stressed.

Hi M.! I have 2 children and ever since they were a few months old i sang the ABC song whenever i changed their diapers and different times during the day and they learned them by 18 months. For her 1st birthday my daughter got lulu the alphabet spider( at Target for about $10-15) and she learned what the letters looked like really fast! I taught them to count just by counting everything when they were near me. You just have to work with them a little everyday. Well I hope this helped.Good luck!

She definitely has to be interested in order to get anything out of "teaching" at this age. Just follow her lead. If you have any magnetic letters on your fridge and she starts showing interest, lead her and tell her the names of the letters. When she is coloring, color with her and write letters, especially letters in her name, and talk about them with her. Just follow her lead. She'll let you know when she's ready and what she's interested in. Good luck!

Ms. M.,
First of all, all children learn at different rates. Don't worry that your daughter is a little behind somebody else's child. However, if you want to start teaching these things, then the best thing to use is repetition. Get some ABC books, magnets, activities. Count out her snacks: i.e. here is 1 grape, 2grapes, 3grapes, etc. Get colorful eating utensils/toys/blocks and ask her to hand you the blue cup, the green spoon, red plate, etc. She will be learning all these things before you know it. Incorporate her learning into everyday life and by age 5 she will be smarter that you are....LOL. Anyway, these are things I do with my children and they seem to work.

Good Luck,

My children are very verbal, and I really didn't have a clue when I started mothering either. I attribute their large vocabulary (and they do understand the words they are saying and not just repeating) to 1) reading a lot, 2) singing a lot -kids remember things when they are put into a lyrical, musical form, and 3) I talk to my kids all the time, from day one. Talking to them all the time in my regular voice using regular words started more from being home and not having anyone else to talk to than thinking about how it would help their verbal development. And I view everything as a possible learning tool for them. I don't sit down and do formal lessons with them, I just use our everyday experiences. For instance, at the grocery store I talk aloud that we need some vegetables, what ones should we get (now at 4 and 2, they help make the decisions too), and point out the different vegetables and fruits and their colors and we feel them. My kids think it's just a fun way to get through the produce section, but they are learning about foods and colors and textures and words at the same time. As we go down the ailes we look around the store for different shapes or colors or letters, etc. It's all fun to them, and if they decide they aren't interested then I don't push it.

While I agree with the other responses you've received that the little girl you observed seems advanced and you shouldn't push your children, I think many times we are the ones hindering our children's learning by thinking that they must be too young to do something. For instance, I was at a restaurant and gave my 11 month daughter a child form to eat with. Another mother thought I was insane for letting an 11 month old have a fork. But around 10 months my daughter was interested in using silverware so I let her. And after a month of practice she was actually quite adept at using her fork (not interested at all in using her silverware now that she's 2, but she does know how!)

If you're interested in a formal teaching method, I would encourage you to look at Dr. Maria Montessori's methods. The Montessori method believes that children should learn at their own pace through self-directed activity adapted to their developmental level and learning through hands-on application of materials. There are Montessori schools, but the philosophy and many of the materials (especially those for learning letters and phonics) can be used in the home.

Ok, honestly, how many children do you know that can spell at 18 mos? More than likely this child is either extremely gifted or she is just repeating what her parents have spelled over and over. As for ABC's, if you keep singing the ABC song enough, your daughter will learn it in no time. That doesn't mean she will know her letters but she will know the song. I have a child that is borderline genius and she wasn't spelling at 18 mos.

That child seems WAY advanced. Probably not a good idea to push it, but I think the best way to teach a child is to talk. A lot. Tell your daughter what you're doing and why you're doing it. Songs are good, too- like the ABC song, etc. Kids learn really well through music. Also, montessori schools are great, but they don't really start until age 3.

In response to your posting, my children are very visual and they love watching TV and DVD's. I create personalized DVD's with voiceover and I have an ABC DVD that you might be interested in using for your daughter to teach her the alphabet. These are like flashcards on DVD. This DVD includes personal pictures, like D is for "dog" and you can use a picture of your child's dog and the voiceover says "D" and spells "dog". The main screen is a picture of the child. My e-mail address is ____@____.com. I can send you more details about it as well as e-mail you a 1 minute sample that shows the letters, A, B, & C. This is great for children from the cradle to age 5. Hope this helps!

I am not sure where you are located but in the butner NC area there is a program called Project Family Read . We meet on mon. and Wed. nights @5:30 pm. dinner is provided and then the parents go off with a teacher and the children go off together with 2 teachers who have 2 assistants and they prepare them for Kindergarden. This has been a lifesaver for me because I need some help ,my daughter fortunatley is a little advanced for her age but she enjoys the socialization and the arts and crafts. If you do not live in this area you could always get with the local schools and check with them . They let the children come to this program as early as 1 and a half. I also find that letting them watch some of the early morning shows on PBS and the baby first channel are extremly helpful.

Read to her as often as possbile. When reading, point to the words, be animated with your reading. Talk to her throughout the day, explaining what you are doing, (washing the plate, rinsing the plate, putting them in/out of the dishwasher, stacking them by size, etc...)using many words. I heard that her seeing you reading or just having a book open in your lap even when you sit to watch tv will help her appriciation for books, ie words grow. Sing the abc song or any song.
L. M - Rossville, GA

The Best thing to teach young children language is to READ DAILY. They pick up new words, understand language, comprehend stories, etc.

I have read to all 3 of my sons since birth and they are all have very advanced vocabulary. My oldest son, who is 8 and in 3rd grade reads at 5th grade level.

You can also use flash cards with pictures, colors, simple words, shapes, etc. That helps with other things she'll need to learn.

Hope that helps you, it helped my children.

Hello M.,
With my grandson,who is now 3, when he was that age, we started buying him educational toys. We let him watch educational cartoons like sesame street etc. We sit down with him and counted fingers and toes. He likes to draw and tries to write. We keep paper and pencils close. He scribbles but is developing his fine motor skills while doing it. We are working on the abcs and teaching him his colors.

Good luck.

My suggestion is to read at least 1 hour everyday with your child. We use flash cards, do puzzles together and talk about any show she watches on television. For us, the more interaction I have with her directly when she is seeing something new, the more it seems to stick with her. My little girl is 26 months and knows all her letters, numbers and how to spell a few words; she speaks in complete sentences and understands many things. The best thing in the world is to READ to your children! thanks!

Some kids do that without "teaching". They are simply verbally precocious. My younger daughter was that way. She watched no TV. I read to her a lot. We had family meals and nature walks. She spoke in complete "adult" sentences at 1. She picked up a lot from her older sister.

She began reading before turning 3, but we did not "teach" her to read. We read to her, and she picked it up, especially at day care. Did she understand what she was reading? Yes. Too well. We had to start censoring her reading and be very careful about the newspaper. But that was HER. And there actually are downsides to having a very young child that aware at such a young age.

So we read a lot to her, and spent time talking and walking and doing things. Does that mean all other children would do as she did? No. Our older daughter was read to and did not do this! And the older one did just fine in school even though she was a "later" reader. The older one was even considered "gifted" and did not read early, talk like that, etc.

As an adult, will you be able to tell which one talked in complete sentences at 12 months? NO! Relax! It is OK and they should not be expected to be the same.

To sum up -- don't concentrate on teaching specific academic things. Just spend time in imaginative play, family meals with lots of talking, nature walks, gardening, cooking and things like that. Teach simple chores by letting your child "help" you.

As for the ABC's... there is always reading those ABC books and singing the song, and pointing out the colors of the letters and names of the objects. We did this while she was sitting on our laps, snuggling. I thought of it as just another book we read ocassionally. If she enjoyed it and wanted that book, fine. If she wanted a different book, fine. She absolutely loved books. Not all children do. But often, when associating it with something pleasant, they do learn to love them.

My recommendation - don't be intimidated by that! That little girl was unusual. Some kids just are like that. I have two cousins who were reading by the age of three simply by watching my aunt read. It's not typical. The best thing you can do for your daughter is read, read, read aloud to her. Get her interested in books. My 18 month old will see his sisters reading and will beg for a book, sit on the couch with them, and "read" too. If you instill a love of books in her early on, she will respond to that. Also, be sure to speak in complete - albeit simple - sentences instead of using one-word commands or baby talk. She'll pick up on that and will mimic you until she learns to compile sentences on her own. But don't worry. She's not behind or anything, and often if you try to push kids that age to be early learners, it just creates frustration for you and the child. The best thing to do is have fun and show her that learning is fun!

My advice is you don't. They will learn when they are ready. I have never heard of an 18/19 month old doing those things, mine doesn't even talk yet. Same age. I have 3 children and each learned at different ages. I have also taught preschool and have a teaching degree, trust me they will all catch up eventually. Developementally I cannot imagine trying to teach a child that young how to spell!?!? They need to just be kids.

Simply include your daughter in your conversations at meal time and any other time you find conversation appropriate for her. Simply talk to her ALOT. I have a friend who has not had any formal education and just loves to talk-a-lot and so does her little girl. Important to include her thoughts and ideas too and let her make some choices. Letting her make choices, very important and making her aware of the rewards or consequences for her choices . Just help to make her feel that what she has to say is just so important! She'll soon be chattering around the clock!

well there are two parts to my answer...the first is the 18 month old girl you met probably doesn't know what she is saying---she just memorized it and has done this because her parents do it over and over and over and over again...you can do it to...just sit down and have classes with her everyday sing your abc's and count to ten she will start mimicing you...
the second part is she will talk and say her abc's...it just may be on her time...when she is ready...

Please relax and take a deep breath. In my line of work, the one thing I see way too often is parents comparing their child to someone else's. Most 18 - 19 month olds do not recite the alphabet or speak in complete sentences. Some children do and that's okay too.

Some practical things you can do with your child to aid in her eventual learning of the alphabet and spelling:
1. Play play play - do you have blocks with letters on them? Build a tower, make a train, spell her name. Just say the letters to her as you play.
2. Sing sing sing - anything = hymns, your favorite songs from childhood, your favorite songs now, it doesn't matter. Sing the ABC song while changing a diaper, washing hands, taking a bath.
3. Read read read - speaking in complete sentences and learning how language works comes through exposure to language. Recite nursery rhymes while bouncing, swaying or dancing together.
4. Just talk to her - about anything. Tell her what you are doing. Make a verbal list of the errands you are running together etc.
5. Take a deep breath and relax. Your daughter will learn these things in due time and you are both going to be fine!

I am a first time mom of a 2 1/2year old and an elementary teacher for 7 years. My first piece of advice is don't overdo it. Read to your child at least 20 minutes a day, simple, repetitive texts. My daughter likes to read the same book over and over again so she ends up knowing what words to say on each page. Now technically that's not reading, but is a early form of understand that the story is on a page. This will also increase vocabulary and sentence structure. As for abc's and 123's, put toys, blocks, books, in your child's play area. He/She will become curious. I also put foam letters in my daughter's bathtub. The Leapfrog brand is amazing...lots of great items that pronounce the letter names and sounds correctly. One thing my daughter loves is to work puzzles together, find puzzles on his/her level and talk about your thinking while you are working on the puzzle with your child. The next big piece of advice I have is talk to her using regular words. Words you use everyday and if a situation requires a big word to explain, use that word and then try to help your child understand what is going on. Reading to your child, talking to your child, and filling the environment with items that will peak curiosity will be the most beneficial. Let the pre-k and kindergarten teacher do the explicit skill and drill of teaching.

My son didnt do those things at that age but he is seven now and is the top of his class. All I did is read to him all the time. Hope this helps

Hi sweetie! I had my daughter at 45 too. She will be 3 in April, me 48 in May. I've found that songs hold my Kara's interest and have helped her to learn the alphabet and such. It seems as if the other little girl has had some exeptional training. Look for some baby music with singing. You'll have fun too! Best of luck. I don't have to tell you how old we'll be when our daughters start driving do I!!?? :-)

Your baby learns better with consistency. So you play with them everyday in a way that can incorporate the alphabet or whatever you want them to learn. For example, my son and I play on the keyboard and as we play the notes I say a number in a tone matching the note... it insures he won't be deftone, even possibly more musically inclined... hope it helps = )

I'm sure a great deal depends on the child--some kids are just more curious about letters and numbers, while others don't have time to sit still! :-) So don't worry if your daughter doesn't care for a while--some kids just don't even think about letter and numbers until they're much older--take whatever opportunities present themselves for learning/teaching, but if she's not interested, feel free to back off. My 3-y/o can sing his ABCs and knows some of the letters; my 20-m/o is not nearly as verbal, but he'll point to letters and say "aaeecee" (which is how he says "abc"--iow, he knows it's letters, but has no clue which ones are which), and he's even pointed to a number and said "3" (but it was a 5--oh, well, he'll learn!). What I've done with both of them is to read to them, and when I sing the alphabet song and read Dr. Seuss's ABCs (the only alphabet book we actually have), then I'll point to each letter so they can learn them. Lately w/my older son, I've been spelling out words for him, so that he can learn more letters and how they work to make words. But so far, he doesn't even recognize most of them. The best thing you can do is read with her, and where she expresses an interest in learning anything, just sit with her and teach her. It's nothing formal--just repetition.

There are tons of things you can do from songs, books, etc. But the very very very best and most fun thing I have found is Flashcards! Kids love learning new things and when they get it right and everyone cheers they think that is just the best ever. Flashcards help eliminate them being distracted by all the other things on the page of a book and let them know EXACTLY what they are identifying.

I have an 3 1/2(girl) and 6(boy) yr old. I started out with the Leap Frog Letter Factory (movie) (also, the Word Factory). I next found the Leap Frog ABC Learning Center (copy and paste link below-from ebay). The ABC's are the buttons and it says their letter and sounds. They sit it right on their lap and go to town. It's great for traveling...If you can handle listening to abc's your whole ride. :) That did wonders for both my kids. They would fight over it. My daughter recognizes all her letters in random order and has about got her sounds down pat! (I will say she is further along than my son was at this age...all because of him being the older sibling. I would say he really started learning his sounds at about 3 1/2) We also have the Leap Frog ABC Refrigerator Magnet and Word Whammer - both sold at walmart. They both have proven to be very beneficial. They play with them while I cook and almost everytime they walk by the fridge.


I hope this info is helpful!

first off I have to say I agree with Lara, she was probably repeating what has been said over and over. But my son always talk in compleat sentences, but we never did the baby talk and talked to him all the time and read to him all the time too. HE knew his abc and 123 very early,but he was repeating the songs we sang to him, but he couldn't identify the letters or numbers if he saw them. You don't want to push your child too much, after all she is only 1 and a half, and she will be in school before long, and she will pick up and learn all this stuff with the rest of the kids.

I have an 18 1/2 month old at home also. She can only say kitty kitty, uh-oh, gone gone, daddy, mommy, sissy and bubba. Every now and then I can get her to say a few other things. I do believe some children are just born that can learn very quickly and some just want to take there time and observe everything. I constantly talk to my daughter about the same words all day long and repeat them alot. One day she will just start saying them on her own. I have 3 children and they all are learning on all different levels. I did read to them all when they were babies and do alot of things everyone will tell you to do but I can honestly say that these precious children learn on their own level so keep doing what you are doing and do not get upset when another child learns something faster than yours. I just tell my daughter one day you will be saying your abc's and talking more. I also noticed you said your were a SAHM for the time being. Does that mean you might want to go back to work soon. I am a SAHM also and in fact I just started my own business working out of my home and if something like that might interest you I would love to talk to you about this great opportunity to earn money from your own home and enjoy being with your children. You can make your own schedule and work when you want to. My website is www.workathomeunited.com/monicad and phone #is ###-###-####. Hope everything works out great for you and have a wonderful day. M. Dickerson

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