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Speech-Language Milestones

Speech, language and communication skills start developing immediately when a baby is born. Even though each child will develop these skills at their own rate, most children will develop these milestones within a certain time frame. The age ranges below show when “most” children develop particular skills.

Birth to 3 months

Birth to 3 months

  • Startles to loud, sudden sounds by crying or moving body
  • Recognizes caregiver’s voice and quiets if crying

  • Has different cries for different needs (e.g. pain versus hunger)

  • Makes cooing sounds

  • Smiles at people

3 to 6 months

  • Moves eyes and/or turns head in direction of sounds

  • Responds to changes in others’ tone of voice

  • Shows delight when bottle or breast is presented

  • Babbles and coos when alone and with others

  • When babbling, uses consonant-vowel syllable (e.g. ba, pa, mi) and changes in intonation to sound speech-like

6 to 9 months

  • Begins to understand and respond to simple words like “no” and phrases like “come here” and “want more?”
  • Looks at family members when they are named and looks when caregiver points

  • Babbles with rhythmic pattern; two or more syllables are often strung together to sound like words, like “mama,” although meaning is not typically understood yet

  • Plays games like “pat-a-cake,” “bye-bye,” and “peek-a-boo”

  • Shakes head to show “no”

  • Uses sounds and gestures to get others’ attention

9 to 12 months

  • Understands words for common items and people, like “cup,” “milk,” “daddy,” “ball;” understands that words represent objects

  • Listens to stories and/or songs for a short time

  • Immediately turns and looks directly at source of sounds

  • Enjoys imitating simple sounds including animal sounds

  • Jabbers loudly and will try to “talk” to others with intent

  • Says one or two words, like “hi,” “uh-oh,” “mama,” “dada,” “dog”  

12 to 18 months

  • Understands approx. 50-75 words

  • Points to body parts or pictures in a book when asked

  • Follows simple one-step directions (“Roll the ball”)

  • Uses 3-20 “real” words, even if they are not produced correctly (e.g. opuh [open], tootie [cookie], baw [ball])

  • Uses nonsense words and babbles while pointing

  • Imitating words regularly

18 to 24 months

  • Understands approx. 300 words

  • May start to follow 2-step related directions (e.g. “Come here and give me the book.”)

  • Can answer simple questions by pointing, shaking/nodding head and single word responses

  • Uses approx. 50 words appropriately

  • May start to combine two words together

  • Starts to ask simple questions (e.g. “What’s that?”)

  • Uses [p], [b], [m], [h] and [w] in words

2 to 3 years

  • Understands approx. 900 words

  • Understands 2-step directions and location words such as [in], [on], [under]

  • Answers simple WH questions like [what], [who] and [where] about common knowledge or books

  • Uses approx. 500 words and likely has a word for almost everything

  • Uses 2- to 3 word phrases

  • Uses [m], [p], [b], [h], [w], [y], [k], [g], [f], [t], [d], and [n] in words

  • Participates in short conversations with others

  • Play: Parallel play at 2 years old & more interactive play at 3 years old

3 to 4 years

  • Understands approx. 1200 words

  • Understands various concepts including: colours and shapes,

  • Understands negation (e.g. “Which one isn’t on the table?”)

  • Follows simple plot in child’s storybook

  • Uses approx. 800 words

  • Uses 4 words together; may still make mistakes (e.g. “I runned to the park.”)

  • Uses various pronouns such as: [I], [me], [you], [they]

  • Asks many questions, sometimes the same question over and over

  • Speech is understood approx. 70-80% of the time

  • Can initiate conversations and make comments or observations to some people

4 to 5 years

  • Understands approx. 2500-2800 words

  • Understands directions containing 3-4 important elements (e.g. “Find the green ball and put it in the closet.”)

  • Understands most of what is heard at home and school

  • Uses approx. 1,500-2,000 words

  • Can retell and make up simple stories using pictures, books or with dolls

  • Uses most speech sounds in words but may make some mistakes on [s], [z], [l], [r], [sh], [ch], [th], [j], [v]

  • Speaks clearly 80-90% of the time


3 to 6 months
6 to 9 months
9 to 12 months
12 to 18 months
1 to 24 months
2 to 3 yars
3 to 4 yars
4 to 5 years

Every child is an artist.

- Picasso

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