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New this month: Speaking volumes
By 15 months, the majority (about 75 percent) of children have a vocabulary that consists of "Mama" and "Dada" plus at least three other words, usually nouns, such as "cookie," "ball," and "dog." "More," and of course the all-time toddler favorite, "No!" are also common early words. A typical 15-month-old can also follow simple commands, such as "Bring me your shoes," or "Put the book down." She also understands the meanings of phrases such as "No," "Come here," "Show me," and "Look."
What you can do
One of the best ways you can encourage your chatterbox to keep on talking is to listen. Even if you don't understand all of what she's saying or asking, make eye contact when she's trying to communicate with you, and acknowledge or respond to her comments and questions whenever possible, which will motivate her to keep on trying.
If your child is taking her time learning to talk, spend a lot of time together reading. Even looking at picture books and pointing out familiar objects will help her store the information for future use. Try to avoid using baby talk, since it can be confusing. If your little one says "goggy" rather than doggy, simply say, "Yes, that's a doggy," rather than repeating her version of the word.
Up until now your child may have had difficulty sitting still to look at books, unless it was just before bedtime. But starting at about 15 months, children become interested in looking at picture books, either with Mom or Dad or alone. You may see your toddler pat the pictures in books, and books with different textures, like the classic Pat the Bunny, are often favorites at this age. And your toddler doesn't have to be sitting in your lap to enjoy a story; you can read to her while she's playing on the floor, too.
Other developments: Using tools and imaginary play
A 12- or 13-month-old will finger and then chew on a spoon or use it to bang on the floor or a pan. But a 15-month-old understands that a spoon is for stirring or eating and will try to use it for its intended purpose, stirring her oatmeal at mealtime. Rather than just drag a broom behind her, she'll try to sweep the floor with it. And when you hand your toddler a hairbrush, she'll attempt to brush her own hair, or a doll's or stuffed animal's. Understanding how objects are used correlates with a child's ability to both use words and express ideas. She is starting to be able to think ahead about how things work, and what the result of her actions will be.
By playing out a familiar scenario, such as mealtime, you will encourage your toddler to use her imagination. Let your child be the chef, and give her a plastic mixing bowl, a manual eggbeater, spoon, and strainer. When she's finished "cooking" something yummy for you, have her help you set a pretend table so you can enjoy a pretend meal together.
As soon as children begin to use language — that is, they both understand words and start to use them — they also have the ability to pretend. Most of your 15-month-old's imaginative play will revolve around her own behaviors. She'll pick up a spoon and pretend to eat from it. Or she'll put her head on your lap and feign sleep. She's using symbols to express her ideas, but at this stage, "pretending" closely mirrors real behavior. In the coming months and years you'll notice your child making leaps in her ability to think outside reality. She'll pick up a stick and wave it before you, saying it's an airplane flying in the clouds, or pretend to be something that she isn't, such as a firefighter.
While it may not be until after her second birthday that your child can actually pretend to be someone else, you can still experiment with role-play. For instance, you pretend to be a dog and suggest that your toddler is a cat. You bark, she meows, and you both have a great laugh. For even more fun, she pretends to be a big dog and you pretend to be a little kitten. Children derive a lot of satisfaction and confidence from this sort of role-reversal, where they get to be the big strong one for a change and an adult plays small and helpless.
See all our articles on toddler development.