Age-Appropriate Speech and Language Milestones
The ability to hear is essential for proper speech and language development. Hearing problems may be suspected in children who are not responding to sounds or who are not developing their language skills appropriately. The following are some age-related guidelines that may help to decide if your child is experiencing hearing problems.
It is important to remember that not every child is the same, and children reach milestones at different ages. Consult your child's doctor if you are suspicious that your child is not developing speech and language skills correctly. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and other experts list the following age-appropriate speech and language milestones for babies and young children.
Milestones related to speech and language
Birth to 5 months
Vocalizes pleasure and displeasure sounds differently (laughs, giggles, cries, or fusses)
Makes noise when talked to
6 to 11 months
Babbles (says "ba-ba-ba")
Says "ma-ma" or "da-da" without meaning
Tries to communicate by actions or gestures
Tries to repeat your sounds
Says first word
12 to 17 months
Answers simple questions nonverbally
Says two to three words to label a person or object (pronunciation may not be clear)
Tries to imitate simple words
Vocabulary of four to six words
18 to 23 months
Vocabulary of 50 words, pronunciation is often unclear
Asks for common foods by name
Makes animal sounds, such as "moo"
Starting to combine words, such as "more milk"
Begins to use pronouns, such as "mine"
Uses two-word phrases
2 to 3 years
Knows some spatial concepts, such as "in" or "on"
Knows pronouns, such as "you," "me" or "her"
Knows descriptive words, such as "big" or "happy"
Uses three-word sentences
Speech is becoming more accurate, but may still leave off ending sounds; strangers may not be able to understand much of what is said
Answers simple questions
Begins to use more pronouns, such as "you" or "I"
Uses question inflection to ask for something, such as "my ball?"
Begins to use plurals, such as "shoes" or "socks" and regular past tense verbs, such as "jumped"
3 to 4 years
Groups objects, such as foods or clothes
Uses most speech sounds, but may distort some of the more difficult sounds, such as l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th. These sounds may not be fully mastered until age 7 or 8.
Uses consonants in the beginning, middle, and ends of words. Some of the more difficult consonants may be distorted, but attempts to say them
Strangers are able to understand much of what is said
Able to describe the use of objects, such as "fork" or "car"
Has fun with language; enjoys poems and recognizes language absurdities, such as, "Is that an elephant on your head?"
Expresses ideas and feelings rather than just talking about the world around him or her
Uses verbs that end in "ing," such as "walking" or "talking"
Answers simple questions, such as "What do you do when you are hungry?"
4 to 5 years
Understands spatial concepts, such as "behind" or "next to"
Understands complex questions
Speech is understandable, but makes mistakes pronouncing long, difficult, or complex words, such as "hippopotamus"
Uses some irregular past tense verbs, such as "ran" or "fell"
Describes how to do things, such as painting a picture
Lists items that belong in a category, such as animals or vehicles
Answers "why" questions
Understands time sequences (for example, what happened first, second, or third)
Carries out a series of three directions
Engages in conversation
Sentences can be eight or more words in length
Uses compound and complex sentences
Uses imagination to create stories
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 09/15/2014
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