Speech and Language Milestones

Every child is an individual and may move these phases at different times.  This is a general guideline about what you can expect as your child develops. If you are worried about your child’s speech and language development, please call us.

Birth to 6 months

  • Startles to loud sounds;
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound
  • Moves eyes in direction of sounds
  • Responds to changes in tone of your voice
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Pays attention to music
  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing)
  • Cries differently for different needs
  • Smiles when sees familiar people
  • Babbling sounds
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • Makes gurgling sounds when left alone and when playing with you

6 months to 12 months

  • Turns and looks in direction of sounds
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Recognizes words for common items like “cup”, “shoe”, “book”, or “juice”
  • Begins to respond to requests (e.g. “Come here” or “Want more?”)
  • Uses speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep attention
  • Uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although sounds may not be clear

12-18 months

  • Follows familiar instructions
  • Understands 50 words or more
  • Anticipates what familiar people will do in routine interactions
  • Points and gestures to communicate
  • Babbles and makes noise while playing
  • Imitates new sounds and words
  • Starts using one or more words

18-24 months

  • Understands more words, directions, and questions, especially those related to routines
  • Points to things in books and around them when those things are named
  • Uses from 50 to several hundred words
  • Tries to communicate using words and gestures frequently
  • May be starting to put two words together (e.g., “car go” or “want juice”)

    Can be understood 70% of the time

2-3 years

  • Understands most instructions related to routines.
  • Puts words together to form 2-word sentences or longer.
  • Can have a short conversation about a topic that they’re interested in.
  • Uses language to talk for a wide variety of purposes (e.g., to get something, to ask questions, to play, to seek comfort, to share a past experience).
  • Plays in imaginative and creative ways, including doing simple pretend play.

    Speech clarity improves to the point that unfamiliar adults can understand their speech (80% by 3)

3-4 years

  • Follows directions that require paying attention to more than one piece of information.
  • Uses language to express emotion (e.g., “I don’t want to” or “He’s happy”).
  • Uses sentences of 5 or more words
  • Says a lot and talks non-stop, but may have choppy speech, or repeat words
  • Tells you about an experience in the past
  • Has conversations with different people about different things
  • Asks questions frequently
  • Understands that different behaviors are expected at different social situations (for example, being quiet at a library)

    Speech clarity improves to the point that most unfamiliar adults can understand their speech (90% by 4)
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