Is Your Toddler Talking Yet? Speech Development at 15 Months

By Anuradha Karanam

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

If you’re worried about why your 15-month-old is only babbling and not talking, you’re not alone. Many parents have similar concerns when their toddler’s speech development isn’t quite where they expected it to be. But here’s the reassuring truth: every child develops at their own pace, and there’s a wide range of what’s considered normal.

At 15 months, some children are already saying a handful of words, while others are still in the babbling stage. It’s completely normal to feel concerned, but before you start to worry too much, let’s explore the normal variations in speech development. Understanding what to look out for and how to support your child’s communication can help ease your mind and provide the best encouragement for their growth.

Understanding Speech Milestones for a 15-Month-Old

At 15 months, your toddler is growing rapidly, exploring their world, and learning new skills every day. It’s an exciting time filled with milestones, especially when it comes to communication. Let’s look at some typical speech milestones that a 15-month-old should ideally be hitting:

1. Says One or Two Words Besides “Mama” or “Dada”

  • By 15 months, many toddlers can say simple words like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog.
  • Some might have a vocabulary of a few words, while others may only say “mama” or “dada.”

2. Looks at Familiar Objects When Named

  • If you point to a ball and say “ball,” your child should be able to look at it.
  • This skill indicates that your child understands basic words and is developing receptive language.

3. Follow simple Directions Using Both Gesture and Words

  • Your child should respond to simple instructions like “Give me the toy” while you hold out your hand.
  • Combining gestures and words helps them grasp what is being asked.

4. Points to Ask for Something or to Get Help

  • Pointing is an important way for your child to express their needs and desires.
  • For instance, pointing at a toy on a shelf to indicate they want to play with it.

Variation in Development

While these milestones provide a general guideline, it’s essential to remember that every child is unique. Some children may:

  • Be more focused on physical milestones like walking and climbing, which could delay their speech development.
  • Say several words clearly at this stage, while others may still rely heavily on babbling.

If your 15-month-old isn’t yet saying words besides “mama” and “dada,” it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit worried. However, speech development can vary widely, and sometimes, children just need a little more time.

Also Read: Speech and Language Milestones – 1 to 2 years

Comparison of Speech Milestones

AgeExpected Speech Milestones
12 monthsWords: Says “mama” or “dada” specifically.
Gestures: Uses simple gestures like waving or pointing.
Understanding: Responds to their name, understands basic words like “no” and “bye-bye.”
15 monthsWords: Says one or two words besides “mama” or “dada” (e.g., “ball,” “dog”).<br> – Gestures: Points to ask for something or to get help.
Understanding: Looks at familiar objects when named, follows simple directions using both gestures and words (e.g., “Give me the toy.”).
18 monthsWords: Say at least 10 words.
Gestures: Points to body parts when asked.
Understanding: Understand simple commands like “no” and “come here” and can follow simple directions without gestures.
24 monthsWords: Says 50 words or more, starts to combine words into two-word phrases (e.g., “more milk”).
Gestures: Points to objects and pictures in books.
Understanding: Understand simple questions and two-step instructions (e.g., “Get your shoes and come here.”).

Know more: Is Your 3-Year-Old Talking Late?- Help for Speech Delay

Causes of Delayed Speech in a 15-Month-Old

If your 15-month-old is only babbling and not talking yet, there could be several reasons for this delay. Here are some of the most common causes of delayed speech:

1. Hearing Loss

  • Explanation: Hearing is crucial for speech development. If a child cannot hear clearly, they might struggle to imitate sounds and words.
  • Recommendation: A hearing assessment is the first step in ruling out hearing loss. Early identification can help ensure your child gets the appropriate intervention.

2. Mental Retardation/Intellectual Disability

  • Description: Intellectual disability can lead to global language delays and impact other developmental milestones. It may be due to genetic factors, prenatal infections, or birth complications.
  • Recommendation: A comprehensive pediatric evaluation can help identify intellectual disabilities. Early diagnosis and intervention can support the child’s overall development.

3. Developmental Language Delay/Maturation Delay

  • Explanation: Developmental language delay, often referred to as maturation delay, is more commonly seen in boys and usually has a family history.
  • Reassurance: The prognosis is usually positive, and children often catch up to their peers by school age. However, it’s still important to monitor their progress.

4. Psychosocial Deprivation

  • Explanation: Speech development may lag if the child faces neglect, abuse, or lack of stimulation in their environment.
  • Recommendation: Ensure a supportive and engaging environment for the child, filled with positive interactions, play, and encouragement.

5. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Symptoms: ASD affects social interaction, behavior, and learning. Children with ASD often struggle with communication and may exhibit repetitive behaviors.
  • Recommendation: Early intervention is crucial. Consult a pediatrician or speech therapist if you suspect your child may have ASD. Comprehensive therapies can help improve communication skills.

6. Oral-Motor Issues

  • Explanation: Difficulty moving the jaw, tongue, lips, and teeth correctly can hinder speech development. These issues can include conditions like dysarthria or childhood apraxia of speech.
  • Recommendation: A speech therapy evaluation can help identify oral-motor issues. Speech therapists can then provide specific exercises and strategies to improve oral coordination.

7. Articulation Disorders

  • Explanation: Misplacement of the tongue can lead to sound disorders like lisping or tongue thrust. Children may also have trouble pronouncing certain sounds.
  • Recommendation: Consult a speech therapist to properly diagnose and treat articulation disorders.

Read more: Understanding Language Disorders: Causes and Characteristics

When to Seek Help from a Specialist

If your 15-month-old isn’t talking at all and only babbling, it’s time to consult a speech therapist. Early intervention plays a crucial role in improving your child’s speech outcomes. Here are some guidelines to help you know when it’s the right time to seek help:

General Guidelines

  • No Words at 15 Months: If your 15-month-old isn’t saying any words besides “mama” and “dada,” it may be a sign of delayed speech development.
  • No Response to Familiar Words: If your child doesn’t respond to their name or recognize common objects (like “ball” or “dog”), it could indicate a delay in receptive language.
  • Lack of Gestures or Pointing: If your toddler isn’t pointing to show interest or waving “bye-bye,” it might signal a communication issue.
  • Inconsistent Hearing Response: If your child seems unresponsive to sounds or frequently ignores you, consider getting their hearing checked.

Explore more: What do Speech and Language therapists do?

Importance of Early Intervention

  • Faster Progress: The earlier the intervention, the quicker the progress in improving speech and language skills.
  • Prevents Further Delays: Early therapy can prevent further developmental delays and ensure your child is ready for preschool and school.
  • Boosts Confidence: Improving communication skills early can boost your child’s confidence and social skills.

Consulting a Pediatrician or Speech Therapist

  • Your child’s pediatrician can guide you to the appropriate specialists for an evaluation.
  • A speech therapist can provide a comprehensive assessment to identify the root cause of the delay.

Subtle Mention of Wellness Hub

  • At Wellness Hub, our experienced speech therapists can help identify the cause of your child’s speech delay and offer personalized strategies for improvement. We offer online speech therapy sessions tailored to your child’s unique needs, providing you with the flexibility and convenience of therapy at home. Learn more about our speech therapy services here.

Know more about our article on Does Speech Therapy Work for Toddlers?

Tips for Parents to Encourage Speech Development

If your 15-month-old is only babbling and not talking yet, there are several strategies you can try at home to encourage speech development. Here are some practical and easy-to-follow tips:

1. Use Infant-Directed Speech

  • What It Is: Infant-directed speech is speaking slowly, repeating words often, and using a higher pitch.
  • Benefits: Helps develop attention, vocabulary, and language skills.
  • How to Do It: When talking to your child, use simple, clear phrases like “Look at the ball!” and repeat often.

2. Play and Language Connection

  • What It Is: Engaging in play activities that correlate actions with words.
  • Examples:
    • Say “Dig!” when playing with a toy shovel.
    • Use “Help!” during pretend play scenarios.
  • Benefits: Reinforces the connection between actions and words, helping your child understand and use language.

3. Read to Your Child

  • What to Read: Colorful storybooks, cartoons, and rhymes.
  • Benefits: Improves language understanding, grammar, and pronunciation.
  • How to Make It Fun:
    • Point to pictures while naming objects (“Look, a red car!”).
    • Use expressive voices for different characters to keep your child’s attention.

4. Incorporate Learning in Everyday Activities

  • What It Is: Include your child in daily chores and use them as learning opportunities.
  • How to Do It:
    • Ask your child to help with basic chores and explain what you’re doing (“Can you hand me the spoon, please?”).
    • Use open-ended questions like “What would you like for lunch?” to encourage forming sentences.
  • Benefits: Helps your child connect language with real-life situations.

5. Encourage Imitation

  • What It Is: Copying your child’s sounds and encouraging them to imitate you.
  • Examples:
    • Make animated sounds like “Whee!” or “Uh-oh!” to make it fun.
    • Repeat the sounds your child makes to show them imitation is fun.
  • Benefits: Encourages speech and builds confidence in making new sounds.

6. Teach New Gestures

  • What It Is: Using baby sign language to reduce frustration and encourage communication.
  • Examples:
    • Teach simple signs like “more,” “milk,” or “help.”
    • Pair signs with spoken words to reinforce meaning.
  • Benefits: Helps your child express needs and feelings before they can speak clearly.

Tips for Encouraging Speech Development

TipHow to Implement It
Use Infant-Directed SpeechSpeak Slowly: Speak at a slower pace so your toddler can follow along.
Repeat Words: Repeat important words and phrases frequently (e.g., “ball,” “dog”).
Use a Higher Pitch: Speak in a slightly higher pitch to capture their attention.
Play and Language ConnectionLabel Actions: Use words that match actions during play (e.g., “dig” with a toy shovel).
Pretend Play Scenarios: Encourage them to use words like “help” while pretending to cook or clean.
Interactive Games: Play interactive games that involve following directions (e.g., “Simon Says”).
Read to Your ChildStorybooks: Read colorful storybooks with simple stories.
Expressive Voices: Use expressive voices for different characters.
Point and Name: Point to pictures and name objects (e.g., “This is a red car”).
Incorporate Learning in Everyday ActivitiesBasic Chores: Involve them in simple tasks like putting toys away.
Explain Activities: Explain what you’re doing (“Mommy is cooking dinner”).
Open-Ended Questions: Ask questions like “What would you like for lunch?” to encourage sentence formation.
Encourage ImitationCopy Sounds: Copy their sounds and encourage them to imitate you.
Fun Sounds: Make animated sounds like “Whee!” or “Uh-oh!” to make it fun.
Lead by Example: Demonstrate desired speech patterns and praise their efforts to imitate.
Teach New GesturesBaby Sign Language: Teach simple signs like “more,” “milk,” and “help.”
Pair with Speech: Use signs alongside spoken words to reinforce meaning.
Practice Frequently: Encourage them to use the gestures in daily interactions.


If your 15-month-old is only babbling and not talking, it’s natural to feel concerned. However, it’s important to remember that early intervention can significantly improve your child’s speech development. Every child develops at their own pace, and sometimes, they just need a little extra support to reach their full communication potential. Seeking help from a speech therapist can make a big difference.

Early intervention matters because the sooner you seek help, the better your child’s speech outcomes will be. Use practical tips like infant-directed speech, imitation, and learning through everyday activities to support your child’s speech development. If you need further guidance, our team at Wellness Hub is ready to help. Visit our speech therapy page or check out related articles like Speech Therapy for Children, Signs Your Child Needs Speech Therapy and Unlocking Speech Development Milestones. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why is my 15-month-old only babbling and not talking?

Your 15-month-old may only be babbling due to various reasons, such as normal speech development variations, hearing loss, intellectual disability, developmental language delay, or psychosocial factors. If you’re concerned, consider consulting a speech therapist for a proper evaluation.

2. When should I worry if my 15-month-old isn’t talking yet?

If your 15-month-old isn’t saying any words besides “mama” or “dada,” doesn’t respond to their name, or isn’t pointing to ask for help, it’s best to consult a speech therapist for guidance. Early intervention can lead to better speech outcomes.

3. How can I encourage my 15-month-old to start talking?

You can encourage speech development in your toddler by:

  • Using infant-directed speech (speaking slowly, repeating words, and using a higher pitch).
  • Engaging in play activities that correlate actions with words.
  • Reading colorful storybooks and using expressive voices.
  • Encouraging imitation by copying their sounds and using fun sounds like “Whee!” or “Uh-oh!”
  • Teaching new gestures through baby sign language.

4. Is it normal for a 15-month-old to only babble and not say any words?

It’s normal for children to develop speech at different rates, but if your 15-month-old is only babbling and not saying any clear words, it could indicate a speech delay. Consult a pediatrician or speech therapist to rule out potential issues.

5. How can a speech therapist help my 15-month-old talk?

A speech therapist can identify the cause of your child’s speech delay and provide tailored strategies and exercises to improve their communication skills. Early intervention with a speech therapist can help your child develop language and reach their full potential.

6. What are some signs of speech delay in a 15-month-old?

Signs of speech delay in a 15-month-old include:

  • Not saying words other than “mama” and “dada.”
  • Not responding to familiar words or names.
  • Not following simple directions like “Give me the toy.”
  • Not pointing to ask for help or show interest.
  • Inconsistent response to sounds.

7. How can Wellness Hub help my 15-month-old with their speech delay?

At Wellness Hub, our experienced speech therapists provide personalized online speech therapy sessions tailored to your child’s unique needs. We can help identify the cause of your child’s speech delay and offer effective strategies to improve their communication. Visit our speech therapy page to learn more.

8. What role does hearing loss play in a 15-month-old’s speech delay?

Hearing loss can significantly impact speech development. If your child cannot hear sounds clearly, they might struggle to imitate words and learn language. A hearing assessment can rule out hearing issues as the cause of your child’s speech delay.

9. Should I teach my 15-month-old baby sign language if they aren’t talking yet?

Yes, teaching baby sign language can be helpful for children who aren’t talking yet. Signs like “more,” “milk,” and “help” can help your child communicate their needs and reduce frustration while also supporting language development.

10. What activities can I do daily to help my 15-month-old start talking?

You can incorporate speech-enhancing activities into your daily routine, such as:

  • Infant-Directed Speech: Use a higher pitch, speak slowly, and repeat simple words.
  • Play-Based Learning: Label actions during play (“Dig!” with a shovel).
  • Reading: Read colorful storybooks and use expressive voices.
  • Everyday Conversations: Ask open-ended questions like “What would you like for lunch?”
  • Imitation Games: Copy your child’s sounds and encourage them to imitate you.

About the Author:

Anuradha Karanam

Speech-language pathologist (7+ years of experience)

Anuradha Karanam is a skilled speech-language pathologist with over 6 years of experience. Fluent in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, and English, she specializes in parent counseling, speech sound disorders, fluency assessment, and speech-language evaluations. Anuradha excels at working with children with developmental disorders, offering creative and effective therapy programs. Currently, at Wellness Hub, she holds a BASLP degree and is registered with the RCI (CRR No A85500). Her patience, ambition, and dedication make her a trusted expert in her field.

Connect with Anuradha to learn more about how she can help you or your loved one find their voice.

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