21 Month Update: Tapping In to Toddler Comprehension

Note: This post is more for my own records than anything else. If you aren’t interested in toddler talk, feel free to skip this post! I won’t be offended!

Confession: At 21 months of age, I have no idea what my child really knows.

Sounds horrible, right? But it’s the truth! I’m literally blown away each day by the things Maya is absorbing — be it at home, at school, out and about, from watching the occasional Mickey episode (yes, that’s how she learned the word “hot dog” long before she ever ATE a hot dog!). I imagine I’m not alone in this sentiment; other parents have to feel this way too, right? Or maybe it’s just me?


I think this is the most frustrating/exciting thing about parenting a toddler — they are these little vessels ofย  knowledge and we just don’t know what they know. We have to figure out what they are absorbing … but since they can’t fully articulate or verbalize everything they know/are learning, how they express “knowledge” still mostly tends to come from nonverbal cues: reaching for something, pointing, grunting, crying, signing, clapping — responses of some kind that indicate, “Yes, woman, that is the purple ball you have been showing me for the 900th time today; I get it. Moving on …”

But over the past few weeks, Maya’s been expressing her comprehension of the world around her using more and more words — and I’ve been quite blown away by what she knows.

Stringing things together. The other night she stubbed her toe and, naturally, began to cry. We asked what was wrong and she said, “Boo-boo Maya” through her tears. So I asked where the boo-boo was and she pointed to her toe. “Boo-boo Maya TOE!” she shrieked. This was a first–where she told us what was hurting. And it was incredible. Don’t get me wrong–I was sad she was hurt and of course I kissed her boo-boo and made it all better. But I was so happy she could tell us what was wrong.ย  [This will come in handy later on when she can tell us her tummy/head/throat/ears hurt(s)].

Association: She’s been diligent about associating objects with people lately: “Mommy’s toothbrush” or “Daddy’s car” or “Doggy’s bone.” She’s also showing an understanding of how time works. Not actual time, but in the mornings saying, “Daddy work, Mommy work.” Of course, that one breaks my heart but if she says “Maya work” we correct her that Maya goes to school, and then she names her little friends — making the association of “school” with the people there. She knows when we wake up we have our milk and then feed the doggy; after school we repeat the same. She LOVES to feed Rocco — it’s her first “chore” but she loves it and so does he ๐Ÿ˜‰

Letters: She’s also beginning to really understand the letters of the alphabet. If I ask her what letter is on a block, she can often tell me the right one. Likewise, we have those little alphabet letters on the fridge and if I ask her to find the “M” or a specific letter, she can find some of them. I guess all the reading we do — and games on the iPad with the alphabet — has been working! She can repeat back the letters of the alphabet and hums it, but we aren’t at the point yet where she actually can do it on her own.

Colors:ย  She isn’t right every time, but I’ve been surprised by the fact that she does know where the “blue block” or “red cup” is (she points or gives said object to me).ย  Mostly she just repeats what we say, but a couple times she has actually told me which color something is (my fave pronunciation is “lellow” for “yellow”). Last night it was a “geen bowl.” Close enough!

Developing bilingual skills: Her Spanish words are also getting better. In fact, we’ve noticed she prefers to say “gato” instead of “cat” and “zapatos” for shoes. She interchanges “agua” and “wawa” (not “water”). But she only knows the word “uvas” for “grapes” and “dia” (sandia) for watermelon.ย  Obviously we want her to know the English words for these things, too … but it’s funny to see which words she prefers in which language. I wonder if it’s easier to say some of them in Spanish?

Numbers: Finally, though she can’t count yet, when we ask her how old she is, she still points her finger to indicate “one” — but this weekend she started saying “one,” too, while showing us one finger. It’s pretty incredible to watch her comprehension and vocabulary unfurl!

Manners: She is getting better at her manners each day. She still signs “please” but she also says it regularly, too. If we give her something, she says “Thank you, Mommy,” or “Thank you, Daddy.” She also now says “Excuse me,” and covers her mouth if she burps. And she will scold Rocco, “No doggy!” if he goes to steal her food. Or, she will proclaim it her own: “Maya cheese!” — as if there was any doubt to whom the cheese belonged! (And now I get why Elmo talks the way he does, in the third person … oy!)

Being a ham: She loves nothing more than making us laugh. It could be repeating what we say in a funny voice, “hiding” from us, making a silly face … she LOVES to make us laugh. Just don’t expect her to be that way in a roomful of people … that’s been a tough area for her lately; she clams up and clings to my leg now in group settings. We’re working on it …

So, as alluded to in the previous point, with all these cool things comes typical toddler behavior that isn’t so cool, such as saying NO to everything she doesn’t want to do — and making it abundantly clear that she is displeased, throwing tantrums for any reason at all, not always being nice to Daddy, and separation anxiety (particularly from me) — to name a few. But on the whole, she is a joy and it’s been great fun watching her grow and change.

Physical changes: She’s looking more and more like a little girl now; sometimes she looks more like Luis and sometimes more like me but it’s evident she has a little of each of our personalities. I’m loving the fact that we can put her hair in ponytails and she fills out her clothes better now (though crazily she can still wear her 6-month denim jacket from last fall … go figure!).

Some 21-month growth stats:
Weight: 24 lbs, plus maybe a few ounces
Clothing size: 12-18 months; 18 months
Diaper size: Size 3
Shoe size: Size 5W

My hope is that she continues to surprise us each and every day with the things she is learning. As her parents, we couldn’t be prouder. We love you, sweet Maya. Or, as her little friends at school call her, “Mayna” ๐Ÿ˜‰


2 thoughts on “21 Month Update: Tapping In to Toddler Comprehension

  1. I LOVE this age! (And I will talk about toddler talk all day with you! lol) Nate is still in the same “picking up a million new words/speaking skills” phase and it amazes us every day. For months and months now every day we talk about the new things he said just that day alone.

    The whole being able to say what hurts is awesome. Such a helpful piece of learning. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks, Candice! I put the disclaimer b/c I don’t think all my readers will care about this stuff — all the more reason I need to rework my blog and put things into sections … just haven’t had time ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to have real conversations. We’re starting to now, but just the very very beginning stages of conversations — like she can answer two questions ๐Ÿ˜‰ “Do we have a doggy?” “yes.” “What’s the doggy’s name?” “Rocco.” I bet Nate has so much to say now, it must be incredible!

      YES–I can’t wait for her to be able to be specific about aches and ailments. Right now, we just do our best to figure!

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