18 Month Old Recognizes Letters: Developmental Milestones Explained

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

The article has been reviewed by medical expert Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN

My 18 month old recognizes letters already, is this something to be proud of? Most parents would be – but some could actually grow worried about it.

Yes, it’s normal and common for 18-month-old babies to recognize, even memorize some letters. In fact, when they’re exposed to words, conversations, and talking, they’ll easily be able to pick-up on sounds much easier.

In this article, we will be diving deep in understanding the development of 18-month-olds. We’ll take a look at the reality of child development and how parents can cope with it!

The website’s general material is given for informative purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. This article has been reviewed by the necessary medical and healthcare professionals and departments that we work with. For emergencies, contact your local physician or certified healthcare provider RIGHT AWAY!

What Does Child Development at 18 Months Look Like?

Babies are all different – we just want to be clear on that. In fact, many babies, toddlers, in particular, have varying milestones when it comes to their development. But how should regular 18-month-old babies be in terms of development?

The United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF, though, said that there’s a general line or category of 18-month-olds when it comes to their development. Here are the things you could expect your 18-month-olds to have in these areas:

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Points to something they’re interested in
  • Could be afraid of people they’re not familiar with
  • Tantrums are possible
  • Can handle things on their own or pretend
  • Can cling to people around them in various situations  

Language and Communication Milestones

  • Knows how to shake head (for no) and nod (for yes)
  • Can say words and can recognize letters
  • Points to what they want

Brain Development Milestones

  • Recognizes objects and toys
  • Points to things they want
  • Identifies and knows certain body parts
  • Can follow commands without gestures

Physical Development Milestones

  • Can walk and move alone
  • Can feed himself and use utensils alone
  • Start walking up and down the stairs
  • Can undress themselves
  • Can pull toys while walking and moving

NOTE: These are the general outtakes of 18-month-old babies. Just because they’re unable to do one or more of these means they’re delayed.

At What Age Should Toddlers Recognize Letters?

Letter recognition is a developmental milestone that differs from kid to child. While there is no set age at which all toddlers should be able to recognize letters, there is a broad timeline by which many youngsters accomplish this talent.

Not all babies are born equally – some find it easy to do one thing, but others find it difficult to do another. So, we really can’t rely on data for our children.

In fact, most youngsters begin to identify letters between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Some do it even before they step into the two-year mark!

             At 18 to 24 months. Your kid will not only be a toddler but also a genuine book aficionado, capable of turning his own board-book pages.”

Don’t Put Them Under Pressure

Parents, please, let us avoid putting our babies under extreme pressure that they should be this and that at a particular age. Let them stay in their lanes and learn at their own paces.

As parents, however, we have the option to guide, assist, and help them shuffle through how they’re developing. It is always important to remember that letter recognition is only a single part of a child’s early literacy development.

The years that follow, the AAP puts emphasis on the importance of laying a solid foundation for both language and communication abilities.

This is why reading books, singing songs, and conversing with toddlers (in an adult way) are all important activities for their general language development.

My 18-Month-Old Recognizes Letters: Is This Good Or Bad?

I don’t know why parents think of it as bad, honestly. Having your 18-month-old knowing and identifying letters in the alphabet is great – it’s how and when they start to learn reading.

Recognizing and remembering letters and alphanumeric characters at 18 months is an early indicator of literacy development. This suggests that your baby is leaning towards being interested in language and visual symbols.

Furthermore, it is often seen as a positive and encouraging milestone since it indicates that your child is beginning to comprehend the fundamental building elements of written language.

Exposing your little munchkin to letters and language-rich surroundings can be favorable and positive to their overall development. We’re talking about things like:

  • Reading books aloud,
  • Talking and conversing with them
  • Singing songs
  • Watching movies and shows
  • And many others more

How Do You Normally Introduce Your 18-Month-Old to Letters?

When you think of it, it’s kind of difficult and complex to start and introduce your baby to letters. I mean, how would they even understand it in the first place? In truth, there are a few different ways of doing so and Judith Hudson, Ph.D., says that the first thing you want to do, as parents, is to read them messages.

There are several entertaining methods to expose your baby angel to letters. Sign their name on their artwork, then point out each letter individually. Eventually, they’ll realize that those stand for their name when formed.”

Moreover, you can choose to reinforce their identity in a number of ways. This can include alphabet letters creating their name on their room door, a toy or puzzle engraved with their name, or by constantly and patiently letting them know about it.

Is There a Gifted 18-Month-Old Checklist?

To answer this straightforwardly, no, there’s none! Many parents fall into this trap of trying to find a list of the things that can point towards finding whether their child is gifted or not.

The Oak Crest Academy said that gifted infants or babies would often show signs of expression early on.

That grin might conceal a high level of intelligence. Heightened awareness is also a thing you want to note. Further than that, they may exhibit early developmental symptoms like rolling over, clutching, crawling, or walking.”

To add to that, by 18 months, they’ll usually want to play with shapes, numbers, and letters – and by this time, they’ll have a few words already learned.

By the time they turn two years old, they’ll be able to grasp the alphabet better and in a more serious manner and they’ll understand alphabets and languages. They’ll start learning colors, liking puzzles, and even words!

Is It Normal For a 1-Year-Old to Know Letters? 

Yes and no – let me give you an explanation that would further enlighten you about this. In a typical sense, a one-year-old knowing and understanding letters in a formal sense is not known as average or “normal,” in that sense.

Most of their peers at this age are still in the early phases of language development, only starting to grasp and make simple sounds and words. Moreover, they’ll primarily be concerned with developing receptive and expressive language abilities like comprehending and employing basic words and gestures.

Following the time they turn two years old, though, would be the time they’ll grasp and understand letters and how they sound.

You will find some babies who are able to identify letters at this age. Why? This is because their parents are constantly diving deep into them learning it.

What Are Some Words to Know By 18 Months? 

At this stage of your child’s development, they would have listened to hundreds of words you regularly say. So, they could pick up and try imitating you by repeating them.

Based on this, though, they’ll have an idea of what a few words mean, especially those that they think are valuable to them.


18-month-old babies should have an idea of certain nouns like baby, cookie, mama, baba, dada, and other nouns that they often hear.


They can also learn and understand certain verbs or action words like go, eat, come, play, and sleep.


Up, down, on, and in would also be among the things they will know because they’re used inside households often.


Most babies won’t know adjectives that much, but some like cold, hot, and hungry are among those that they should know.

Social Words

Lastly, social words are also something they’ll have an idea on. Most babies hear this from their parents and other people, and so, they’ll know what these are.

These are some of the things that 18-month-olds would know. Again, the typical vocabulary of a baby who is 18-months-old would be around 5 to 40, so, take it easy on them!

When Do Babies Start Recognizing Their Name

The American Speech and Hearing or ASHA claims that babies would be able to identify themselves by their names at about four to nine months old. At four months, they’ll start being familiar with what they’re called. From then on – up to a year, they’ll fully know their names!

Stop Worrying About Your Child Knowing the Alphabet at 18 Months

A lot of parents try and force their babies to learn the alphabet even if they’re not on that pedestal yet. What this does is create some type of forcefield or barrier for their babies to develop. Eventually, they’ll fall right off.

Busy Toddler says that parents should avoid forcing their babies in learning the ABC’s – there’s actually more to it than the alphabet!

             From the age of two to six (kindergarten), children learn the ABCs in a variety of ways. Consider how broad that range is!”

Take note, it’s not like a development opportunity of sitting up, sitting down, lying down, or rolling over that most babies achieve in just a few weeks. The alphabet is something that needs memorization and social development.

There are shy babies – in fact, the majority of them are shy and tend to wave off unfamiliar faces. There’s actually more to it than the alphabet!

Recommended Resources and Tools

Parents, don’t worry about help and assistance, because there are plenty of them. Especially now that there are resources online – mostly free, it’ll be easy for everyone, including your baby to learn and develop.

There are educational books, toys, and platforms you can use with your little munchkin to help and assist them.

Educational Books:

  • AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First by Alethea Kontis
  • Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book! by Dr. Seuss
  • The Alphabet Book” by P.D. Eastman
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

Educational Toys:

  • Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Puppy’s ABC Book
  • Educational Insights Playfoam Shape & Learn Alphabet Set
  • LeapFrog Letter Factory Phonics

Some platforms and websites you can leverage would be:

How You Can Help

Development should be constant – even after they learn the alphabet, you shouldn’t stop helping your little angel develop and improve.

One thing you can do is to have your toddler watch you while you’re doing chores. They LOVE it. Plus, when they grow up, they’ll eventually learn that they have to do it on their own, too!

Read, read, read! Never stop reading! Always show your child that reading is a part of your daily routine. In fact, you can read them to sleep at night to help them doze off!

Play with them! Try and explain shapes, colors, and numbers to them while you do so. It will be you who can help and change your baby’s overall development.


Do you still have questions about your 18-month-old and about his or her development? Here are some of the most asked questions about it!

How Many Letters Should A 2-Year-Old Know

There’s no specific number of letters that a 2-year-old would know. However, at this age, children, typically, would be able to know the letters and sing the ABC song – even if they aren’t able to pronounce some correctly.

How Many Numbers Should a 2-Year-Old Know 

2-year-olds would most usually know how to count up to ten. There are children, however, who can count up to twenty. This will depend on how you train and practice with your baby – not all babies are the same!

Is My Child Gifted at 18 Months? 

One of the best signs that a child is gifted would be by crossing the 100-word mark even if they’re just 18 months old. The usual 18-month-old baby will only have a library of 5 to 20 words at most.

When Do Babies Recognize Colors

Healthline says that babies start differentiating colors between two to four months. This will improve at their 18-month-old mark. By the time they turn two, they would be able to differentiate and “say” the color by themselves.

Final Verdict

If your 18-month-old recognizes letters, if they’re able to listen and retain sound in their heads, or if they’re starting to spew out words, that’s great! Babies who are at least a year old should start developing their speech and language skills, if not, that’s the time when parents need to intervene and assist their children.

Should you ever feel left behind with all of these information, don’t hesitate to revisit this guide again to get guidance!

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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