What are the milestones to look out for in Speech & Language development?

Common milestones to look out for in speech and language development

Children grow and develop at their own pace. It is important to establish that not all children have the same language skills, communication, or learning abilities. However, monitoring the development of a child’s speech and language milestones is important since some children might be unable to meet the speech-language developmental milestones for their age. Research has shown time and again that the early detection and intervention is very important for the treatment of speech and language difficulties. Early intervention leads to better outcomes because younger children’s brains are more flexible and receptive to learning speech and language skills. Knowing this, the importance of us monitoring the development of our children’s speech and language milestones should be clear

Some common age-appropriate milestones are as follows:

3 Months: 

By the end of 3 months your child might: 

  • Smiles when you appear
  • coo and laugh
  • Seem to recognize you and your voice
  • Play with sounds
  • Cry differently for different needs

6 Months

By the end of 6 months, your child might:

  • Make gurgling sounds 
  • Babble and make a variety of sounds
  • Play with sounds
  • Pay attention towards the direction of sounds
  • Notice the sounds toys make

12 Months

By the end of 12 months, your child might:

  • Understand and respond to about 10-15 words
  • Respond to their name
  • Recognize gestures, e.g. waving goodbye
  • Recognize a few familiar objects
  • Recognize close people
  • Make eye contact with you
  • Start to imitate sounds, gestures, and some common words

18 Months

By the end of 18 months, your child might:

  • Understand up to 50 words 
  • Understand some short phrases
  • Follow simple 1-step instruction (e.g. ‘pass me the ball’)
  • Point to or look towards familiar objects when named
  • Somewhat accurately produce 6-20 words, 
  • Copy words and noises
  • Name some of the body parts
  • Use objects in pretend play (e.g. pretending to have a tea party)

2 Years

By the end of 2 years, your child might:

  • Understand and say more than 50 words
  • Put two words together to form a phrase (e.g. food come)
  • Follow simple 2-step instructions (e.g. ‘pick up the book and the ball)
  • Respond to simple questions
  • Say ‘no’ to refuse things
  • Start to use the words mine/my
  • Speak well enough to be understood at least half the time by you or other primary caregivers

3 Years

By the end of 3 years, your child might:

  • Recognize some colors
  • Have a vocabulary of about 900 words
  • Follow more complex instructions (e.g. pick up the book and put it on the table)
  • Understand and ask to ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘who’ questions
  • Understand the concepts of ‘same’ and ‘different’
  • Able to sort things into groups (e.g., toys, food, books)
  • Say short word sentences
  • Talk about things in the past (may overuse adding ‘ed’, e.g. ‘he eated food’)

4 years

By the end of 4 years, your child might:

  • Answer most questions about day-to-day activities
  • Understand and respond to questions
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Understand some numbers
  • Be understood by strangers most of the time
  • Have a vocabulary of 1000-1500 words
  • Make longer sentences using conjunctions like ‘but’, ‘and’ and ‘because’
  • Describe recent events
  • Use personal pronouns (e.g. he, she)
  • Use negatives (e.g. do not, can not)
  • Name a few colors
  • Takes on multiple roles in pretend play (e.g. customer and the shopkeeper)
  • Talks a lot during play

5 Years

By the end of 5 years, your child might:

  • Follow 3-step instructions (e.g. ‘take your shirt, fold it and put in the cupboard)
  • Understand prepositions of time (e.g. before, after, at)
  • Begin to recognize some letters and numbers
  • Use well-formed sentences 
  • Tell simple and short stories with a proper structure. 
  • Use past and future verbs correctly 
  • Able to produce most speech sounds, but might have trouble with s, r, l and th.

5-8 Years 

During the age of 5-8 years, your child might:

  • In early school years a child learns a lot more words. 
  • Start to understand how the sounds within language work together.
  • Become a better storyteller.  
  • share their ideas and opinions
  • have adult-like conversations.

Every child learns to speak at his or her own pace. However general milestones can serve as a guide for parents to check for speech and language difficulties and if their child needs any extra help. Some variability in achieving these milestones might be expected if a child is learning more than one language. 

However, if your child hasn't mastered most of the speech and language development milestones for their age and you are concerned about their speech-language development, it is a good idea to see a speech-language therapist for a consultation.