Speech and Language Milestones

0-6 Months:

What you can expect

  • Cooing and babbling;
  • Continual awareness of sound (turns to sound, stops crying when spoken to);
  • Uses eye gaze to indicate interest.

Talking Tip: Have hearing tested if infant appears unresponsive to environmental or speech sounds. Use lots of intonation with child, and short simple language. When your infant is feeding, take "turns" talking -- caregiver talks to infant, then the baby drinks/eats. This is an early form of turn-taking. The sing-songy speech of a mother to her child is an excellent way of getting and maintaining your baby's attention. It makes the child more aware of human speech and encourages early social interactions.

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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7-12 Months:

What you can expect

  • First true words appear (they are often people, or nouns);
  • Same syllable is repeated (mama, dada);
  • Child demonstrates increased understanding of daily routines.

Talking Tip: Respond to your child's vocalizations (i.e. if child says "mama", you could respond with "mama, yes, mama's home"). You may provide a language rich environment by talking about your daily routines through out the day in simple language (2-3 words at a time). This may help to build receptive language skills. Use lots of speech/routine games such as "Paticake", "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and singing. Use lots of intonation and gestures when you are interacting with your child. "Watch" as well as listen to your child's responses, and respond to all intentional communication both nonverbal and verbal (a smile, movement, vocal attempt, or actual word).

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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12 Months:

What you can expect

  • Child says 3-5 words;
  • Child recognizes his/her name;
  • Understands simple instructions;
  • child may use both gestures and vocalizations together
  • Child understands common objects and actions (e.g., cookie, eat, juice).

Talking Tip: Label items frequently. When child reaches or shows interest in an item or action, label it using 1-2 words. Provide choices from with 2 objects such as "want juice or milk" while holding carton of each. Continue with nursery rhymes, colorful books, "Peek-a-Boo", "Pat-a-Cake" and songs.

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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18 Months:

What you can expect

  • Child uses about 10-20 words at age 18 months including names;
  • Recognition of pictures of familiar persons and objects
  • Early 2-word combinations of words emerge;
  • Needs are requested verbally such as "more, up";
  • Child will point, gesture, follow simple commands, imitate simple actions, hum or sing;

Talking Tip: Talk using simple, clear language. Imitate your child frequently in both action and sound, and model correct language. You do not have to "correct" the child, just model an appropriate response. Discuss what your child is feeling, hearing or doing throughout the day. Don't forget to praise your child's efforts to communicate. You may make a "speech/language book" by cutting out pictures of favorite toys or foods from the newspaper, or adding photo's of family members into a home made journal. You can "read" your book daily and practice words of favorite toys, foods, and people!

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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24 Months (2 Years):

What you can expect

  • Child understands simple questions and commands
  • Identifies familiar actions/activities in pictures (i.e. "sleeping, eating")
  • Follows directions to put objects "on, off, in"
  • Puts two words together on average
  • Sentence length of up to three words
  • Child will refer to self by name
  • Labels pictures
  • Final "s" is used for plurals
  • Vocabulary may jump to 300 words during the year! In fact between the ages of 2 and 4, kids may increase their vocabulary by as much as 2 words per day;

Talking Tip: You can use some questions to stimulate additional thought and language, however limit the use/frequency of questions you use. Too many questions can be demanding, and frustrating if the child is unable to formulate a response. Frequent "commenting" often elicits as much or more language from a child! Give your child time to respond! Waiting as long as 10 seconds for a response is often needed. Read books with simple and repetitive language, and simple colorful pictures (I like the book "Go Away" by Ed Emberley). Play "Simon Says" or other listening/following instruction games to help develop listening skills. Make sure requests are simple (i.e., "touch your nose").

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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30 Months (2.5 Years):

What you can expect

  • Child has about 450 word vocabulary;
  • Child is able to give his/her first name;
  • Child uses past tense, plurals, and combines nouns and verbs;
  • Begin to identify objects from a group by their function and parts (ie. "which one has wheels?", "which one can we eat?");
  • Begin to use verbs with "ing" endings (i.e. "eating");
  • Early concepts such as "big, little" are identified;
  • Child will use "no, not" and answer "where" questions.

Talking Tip: Model pronouns such as "I, he, she" with short phrases (i.e. "I like cookies"). Read familiar and/or repetitive stories and encourage child to tell what is going to happen, or respond to simple questions about the story. Remember, you don't have to read "the words" in a book, sometimes simplifying the language and personalizing it to the child can be more beneficial for kids!

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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3 Years:

What you can expect

  • Child will name at least one color;
  • Child will often talk during play, or when alone;
  • Child can tell a basic story or idea;
  • Child can use 3-4 word sentences;
  • Begins to understand "not";
  • Can identify items in a familiar category or group (i.e. "show me the animal");
  • Child can have a vocabulary of up to 1000 words;
  • Children are often able to tell their name and street.

Talking Tip: Encourage vocabulary development by providing a language rich environment at home. Using simple sentences at or just above the child's level (i.e. 4-5 words ) when talking around the child will help to build understanding of language and show how words can be used together to formulate sentences. Children learn a lot of language through play. Play with child as if you are a child.!(i.e. Model dolls "talking"/carrying out familiar routines. "Drive" toy cars to the "store" to get milk, then "drive home" and put away the groceries or prepare dinner). Children will use a lot of pretend play, and carryout early social sequences. Playing with other children is also a good way to develop social and language skills. A child may not have all the sounds, however he/she should be intelligible by age 3. If a delay is suspected, discuss it with your pediatrician for a possible speech/language evaluation.

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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4 Years:

What you can expect

  • Child will follow 2-3 step commands;
  • Child will ask many questions, including "who/why";
  • Child talks in 4-5 word sentences;
  • Understands and verbalizes spatial concepts more readily such as "on, under, next to..";
  • Child will talk in the past tense correctly.

Talking Tip: Start to classify objects into bigger categories such as "animals, things to wear, things to eat...". To do this, you can visit the zoo (talk about animals), plan outfits for particular occasions(talk about clothing), discuss what you will eat for lunch, dinner (talk about foods), etc. You can talk to your child in longer sentences, and read longer stories. Making up, or telling stories to each other can help to build language skills. Speech sounds may not be perfect yet, so remember to model the correct sounds.

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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5 Years:

What you can expect

  • Child defines objects by their function;
  • Identifies spatial concepts such as "on, behind";
  • Child uses 5-6 word sentences;
  • Child understands many opposites;
  • Child can use different tenses (past, present, future), and many sentence types.

Talking Tip: Listen to your child when he/she talks to you, and encourage child to discuss feelings, ideas, or thoughts. Try to stimulate, and carry on a conversation. Comment frequently on what you think your child is feeling/thinking to encourage conversation. Use longer, adult like speech with your 5-year old. They will generally understand more than they can say.

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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6 Years:

What you can expect

  • Child is developing phonological (sound/letter) awareness skills, and sound/word segmentation skills;
  • Can generate creative sentences;
  • Understands time/space concepts such as "before/after, first/second/last".

Talking Tip: Begin or continue with phonics/phonological awareness activities. letter-sound matching, segmenting words into sounds, and blending sounds back into words, rhyming, counting/clapping out syllables, and Break larger words into their component parts (suffixes and prefixes, compound words) are all good phonological awareness activities that will help to develop reading and spelling skills.

Related Link: Speech Developmental Norms

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*Although children typically develop in the same manner, all children are different and unique. The above are general guidelines as evidenced through various sources of literature from a literature review. If a delay is suspected, contact your pediatrician to discuss. Your pediatrician may refer you for the appropriate evaluation if necessary.

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