Join   Sign In  

When Will My Toddler Understand Instructions?


One of the most frustrating aspects of the toddler years for many parents is wondering if the child can understand you. Before their language skills develop and they can simply speak up, it's difficult to tell if what you're saying is getting through. It's easy to think your child is simply disobeying, but do you really know if he or she is aware of your requests? Read on to learn about toddler brain development.

Learning language

You've likely seen your child showing age-appropriate signs of understanding. These can range from knowing who mom and dad are to using gestures to signal he or she is hungry or wants to be picked up. Around nine months old is when most babies become aware of their name. At the one-year mark, it is common for babies to learn the meaning of words like "no" and "come here." These are very simple and repeated so often that young toddlers can easily understand their meaning. 

So, how do babies learn up until the point where they specifically know various words and sentences? These tiny humans are in tune to emotion. Newborns learn that adults respond to their own emotions and therefore connect actions like crying with being picked up. When babies learn to smile around six weeks old, they'll see how happy their parents get seeing that grin and continue to do it to get a positive response. 

Another part of babies' understanding of emotion is learning different tones of voice. Similar to a how a dog reacts depending on your intonation, babies will quickly realize your happy and angry tones and respond to them.

a baby playing with his mom
Babies learn to understand more complex phrases between ages 2 and 3.

Understanding complex language

Between ages eight months and 12 months, simple requests such as, "Do you want more peas?" will receive an answer in the form of a "yes" or "no" or an action, like tossing the plate across the room. Directions that require multiple parts, like "Go find your hat and put it on," will be understood between two and three years old. At this time you should be able to ask who, what and where questions and receive an answer. "What did you do at daycare?" may lead to your child replying, "We play ball," for example. 

Encouraging early understanding

There is no universal age at which children reach certain milestones. Everyone is different, but there are ways to improve your baby's understanding. The best method is to talk to him or her frequently. The more words and phrases a child is exposed to, the better he or she will understand them. This is also true of older kids hearing bigger words. Using a more in-depth and expansive vocabulary starting at an early age can improve your kids' reading and language comprehension. 

Until your baby reaches an age where he or she understands directions, be sure to use simple phrases with few words. This will help him or her develop and reduce your frustration.

3 Troubleshooting Your Toddler Problems and Solutions
10 Holiday Crafts for Toddlers 4

You Might Like