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age appropriate requesting

I Want It Now! A Guide to Age-Appropriate Requesting

As children learn and grow, what counts as “appropriate” requesting also changes. Parents may notice that what once was acceptable (like grunting and pointing) is no longer as children’s language expands. See below for an overview of appropriate requesting for each age range. It should be noted however, that each age group represents a range of skills and some children may develop faster or slower than others.

 A Month-By-Month Guide to Age-Appropriate Requesting:

  • Birth-9 Months: These babies will express their wants and needs through vocalizing, shouting,age appropriate requesting and crying. Oftentimes, parents report that they can tell the meaning behind different cries however, unfamiliar adults may have difficulty. Babies may be requesting a diaper change, milk, or to be picked up/rocked.
  • 9-12 Months: Requesting in this age range becomes slightly more volitional than for the younger babies. These babies will continue to vocalize to make wants and needs known, but they may also reach for desired objects (e.g., toy, rattle, spoon), and may imitate sounds to indicate a continuance of play (e.g., “buh” when caregiver says “ball.”)
  • 12-18 Months: Once toddlers begin to speak in single words (whether prompted or independently), requesting becomes more mature. Toddlers may use words (e.g., “more,” “help,” or naming desired object) to indicate their needs. Children in this age range are often more likely to point to preferred items (e.g., ball or bubbles), and will tend to pull caregivers toward desired objects (e.g., bookshelf, puzzles, or anything out of reach).
  • 18-24 Months: Children in this age range will often use one or two words when requesting. These requests again become more mature, as children will name objects during play to indicate their preferences (e.g., “ball,”). They may also shake their heads to express “no.”
  • 24-30 Months: Two year olds will begin to express desires with two or three words, often using early pronouns (e.g., “I want ball”). They may request to ask for help, (e.g., “open juice”), and may respond to questions from caregivers (e.g., “do you want more milk?” answer: “more milk”).
  • 30-36 Months: Three year olds will begin to express “yes” and “no” verbally, when asked questions regarding their wants and needs. Expressive requesting will become more mature, and children will often use four words to express their preferences. Telling parents or teachers, “I want milk please,” these children are more independent than previously.
  • 36 Months+: Requesting for preschool-aged children again becomes more complex. Once mastering four word requesting, these children may express, “can I have the ____.” Often this will require prompting for parents or caregivers, and children may benefit from adult models for appropriate sentence construction.

Click here to read 5 things you didn’t know about how your child learns language


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Reference: Rossetti, L. (2006). The Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale. Linguisystems, Inc.