13-Month-Old & Language: What’s Normal, When To Worry

In the first few years of a child’s life, they undergo notable progress and maturation. It is normal to have concerns about potential delays in achieving crucial developmental milestones.

So, should your 13-month-old be talking? Yes, 75% of children should have a simple vocabulary of 1 to 4 words by the time they reach one year of age. Variations in the timing and execution of this skill are normal for 25% of children this age. An inability to use physical gestures, vocalize sounds, or respond to language should be reviewed with a pediatrician. 

This article gives a detailed explanation of language and speech development, signs of concern, and pediatric milestones.

13-Month-Old Language Development

From a newly born cuddle bug to a havoc-wreaking mover, your child has grown tremendously over the last year.

Along the way, they’ve likely reached several milestones that you’ve diligently and proudly tracked. They laugh, roll over, crawl, and eat solid foods, but when will they start walking and talking? 

Normal Language Development

At 13 months of age, your child will still be operating with a limited vocabulary. They should be babbling in repetitive patterns such as “bababa” or “gogogo” and doing so to gain or keep your attention.

They should also know how to vocalize a handful of associated words, like “mama,” “dada,” or “hi.” 

Atypical Language Development

There are two ways in which a child can experience communicative developmental delays. These delays can occur for several reasons – social, emotional, and medical. 

The first is speech, which refers to the vocal articulation of words. A child struggling with speech may be able to accurately express a thought or idea, but they will not be verbally understood. 

The second is language, which refers to the understanding of words. A child struggling with language development may be able to speak clearly but not be capable of expressing the need or idea.

Atypical language development is harder to detect in babies than in toddlers. In general, parents should be able to understand about 50% of their child’s speech by age 2. This percentage should increase the older the child gets. 

Stages of Babbling

Language and speech development starts with vocalization. For the first year of your child’s life, their babbling has helped lead up to the moments when they speak their first words. 

  • Around 2 months, your child should cry and coo.
  • Around 3-4 months, these sounds become directed at parents, people, and objects.
  • At month 5, the coos turn into babbles as your child discovers new volumes and syllables. 
  • Around months 6-7, simple babbling leads way to duplicated babbling like “ma-ma” or “ba-ba.” 
  • Around months 8-9, duplicated babbling leads way to variegated babbling in which your child mixes sounds like “ma da ba.”
  • Around months 10-11, babbling turns into jargon that imitates conversational tone and inflection. 
  • At month 12, jargon leads way to babies’ first associated words such as “mama,” “dada,”” hi,” or “bye.” 

Signs Baby Will Talk Soon

Two important precursors to language development are comprehension and association.

If your 13-month-old is responding to your attempts at communication through gestures, pauses, or babbling, it’s likely that they’re on the right path. Some examples of this are: 

  • Crawling or walking to you when you say, “Come here.”
  • Pausing briefly or not completing the task when you say, “No.”
  • Waving in response to “bye-bye” or “hello.”
  • Pointing to or picking up an item when it’s spoken, such as “dog,”” baba,” or “door.”

How To Encourage Babies To Talk

There are multiple ways to encourage your baby to talk, but a key concept is to speak clearly and directly to them. Other ways to stimulate development are by: 

Building on existing language: If your baby says “bottle,” you respond with, “Yes, that is a bottle.”

Narrate your activities: If you’re shampooing your child’s hair, you’d say, “Now we’re washing your hair.” 

Read picture books to them. Point to the pictures as you read the word to help form word associations. 

13-Month-Old Not Talking

While there are guidelines on early development, it’s vital to remember that every child is different in the timing and execution of certain milestones.

If your child’s speech or language development is behind, rest assured that it bears no reflection on you as a parent. There are many factors outside of parental control that contribute to both advancement and delay. 

Is It Normal? 

The CDC outlines that developmental milestones are skills or activities that at least 75% of children in a particular age group should be capable of doing.

This means that up to 25% of children in that age group may not achieve this milestone on the same timeline. 

For this reason, variations in major skills like walking and talking are completely normal.

If your child is reaching other milestones, displaying language understanding, or using gestures to communicate, then it’s likely that they’re just moving at their own pace. 

When To Be Concerned

When it comes to developmental delays, you shouldn’t wait to report your concerns. Contact your pediatrician if any of the following apply: 

  • Your child does not respond to or vocalize sounds.
  • Your child is not using gestures, such as waving or pointing.
  • Your child has lost skills they once had.
  • Your child is not meeting one or more milestones. 
  • You’re concerned about their development. 

13-Month-Old Milestones

The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics’ Milestone Moments Booklet outlines the following developmental milestones for a 1-year-old child: 

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Plays games with you, like pat-a-cake

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Waves “bye-bye”
  • Calls a parent “mama” or “dada” or another special name
  • Understands “no” (pauses briefly or stops when you say it)

Cognitive Milestones (Learning, Thinking, Problem-Solving)

  • Puts something in a container, like a block in a cup
  • Looks for things he sees you hide, like a toy under a blanket

Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Pulls up to stand
  • Walks while holding on to furniture
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid while you hold it
  • Picks things, like small bits of food, up between thumb and pointer finger

Signs of Autism In 1-Year-Old

Children on the autism spectrum typically show distinct differences in behavioral, language, and social development.

If you’re concerned about your child displaying the following signs of autism, speak with their pediatrician. According to the National Autism Association, early signs of autism can include: 

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Desire to be alone 
  • Repetitive words or phrases
  • Obsessive interests and fears
  • Flapping hands, rocking body, or spinning in circles
  • Avoiding physical contact
  • Not reciprocating emotions
  • Mixing up pronouns such as “you” and “I”
  • Unusual reactions and sensitivities
  • Unusual eating or sleeping habits
  • Resistance or negative response to minor changes
  • No speech or delayed speech

Related Questions:

Should I Be Reading To My 1-Year-Old? 

Yes, studies show that reading to your baby teaches them valuable early literacy skills. These skills set the stage for advanced communication, learning concepts, memory, and listening. 

Should My 13-Month-Old Be Walking? 

Yes, at 13 months old your child should be able to walk while holding onto furniture. They may be able to walk short distances on their own, but this is a 15-month milestone.

However, delays in walking are perfectly normal as the skill requires physical practice. 

Conclusion

Leading experts in the field have concluded that a 13-month-old child should have a simple vocabulary of one to four words. However, variations in this timeline are normal since speech and language require both practice and exposure.