Speech and Language Development by Age

How do you know if your child is behind schedule, or needs speech or language therapy? Here, we discuss what a child of each age is typically capable of doing. If your child is having difficulty with several of the items listed for their age, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation, to see if they could benefit from speech, language, or feeding therapy. 


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0-3 Months

  • Cries — Between 1-4 months, cries differently in response to hunger, pain, tiredness, etc.

  • Moves eyes toward sounds, especially voices of caregivers

  • Briefly looks at people

  • Makes cooing (mostly vowels) and gurgling noises


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3-6 months

  • Babbles - makes sounds like "aga", "aba", "gaga", and "mmmm"

  • Coos, gurgles, laughs

  • Uses tone of voice to convey pleasure and displeasure

  • Pays attention to moving patterns

  • Looks at faces

  • If someone starts talking, looks around for where the voice is coming from

  • Smiles at people

  • Responds to name by looking at the speaker

  • Bangs objects on a floor/table

  • Transfers objects from one hand to another

  • Rolls over in both directions


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6-9 months

  • Babbles using the following sounds in syllables:

    • m, n, t, d, b, p, y

  • Babbles using intonation or "singing" patterns

  • Babbles using the same syllable repeatedly (such as "bababababa")

  • Understands "no"

  • Looks at some familiar objects or pictures when you name them

  • Recognizes names of family members (e.g., looks at sibling when someone uses her name)

  • Bangs objects together

  • Understands some gestures made by parent (e.g., pointing, shaking head)

  • Drinks from an open cup (with adult assistance)

  • Crawls on belly

  • Sits up without support

  • Makes different vocalizations for different emotional states (e.g., hungry, content, angry)

  • Imitates familiar sounds and actions


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9-12 Months

  • Vocalizes when looking in a mirror

  • Uses a wide variety of sounds and intonations when babbling/jabbering

  • Combines different syllables together when babbling (e.g., "bagamidoo")

  • May use first true word between about 10-18 months of age

  • Will sometimes give an object to an adult when asked to

  • Turns their head immediately when their name is called

  • May get upset or indicate displeasure when an object is removed

  • Names or looks for objects that are out of sight

  • Recognizes that an object is upside-down from the way it is normally

  • Understands and follows very simple commands relating to body parts (e.g., "open your mouth")

  • Deliberately drops things to watch them fall

  • Holds crayon and imitates scribbling

  • Takes a few steps with help from adult

  • Vocalizes to get someone's attention

  • Shakes head "no"

  • Waves "bye"


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1-1.5 years

  • Uses most vowels and consonants

  • Uses sentence-like intonation but not real words put together (jargon)

  • Begins to use single words, although they might not sound like an adult word

  • Might leave out the first or last consonant of a word (e.g., "ba" for ball)

  • Can accurately imitate some words

  • Can follow some simple one-word commands

  • Asks for "more"

  • Says "all gone"

  • Brings objects to show an adult

  • Requests objects by pointing and vocalizing, or uses a word to request, although it might not sound like an adult word


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1.5-2 years

  • Uses words with a consonant-vowel-consonant structure (e.g., “cat”, “hot”)

  • Can point to 5 body parts on self or toy

  • Responds to yes/no questions

  • Uses approximately 50 recognizable words

  • Listens to simple stories (may prefer familiar ones)

  • Talks to self while playing

  • Says own name when asked

  • Can name many familiar objects


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2-2.5 years

  • Can be understood about 70% of the time

  • Uses approximately 200 recognizable words

  • Answers “where” and “what… doing” questions

  • Starts using “a”, “an”, “-ing”, and at least two pronouns

  • Produces sentences of 3-4 words

  • Uses “in” and “on” correctly

  • Understands “one” and “all”

  • Listens to stories for 5-10 minutes at a time


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2.5-3 years

  • Can be understood about 80% of the time

  • Uses approximately 500 recognizable words

  • Listens to stories for 20 minutes at a time

  • Engages in short dialogues

  • Begins to use language in imaginative ways

  • Uses the pronouns “I”, “me”, “you”, “mine”

  • Uses “s” for possession (e.g., “Daddy’s cup”)


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3-3.5 years

  • Uses at least 800 words, understands at least 1200 words

  • Identifies basic shapes (e.g., circle, square)

  • Follows directions that have two actions in them (e.g., “wave your hand, and then jump”) or two objects (e.g., “give me the crayon and the paper”)

  • Asks “what” and “who” questions

  • Produces sentences of 4-5 words

  • Engages in longer dialogues

  • Consistently uses regular plurals (e.g., “cats”, “dogs”, “crayons”); may begin to use some irregular plurals inconsistently (e.g., “children”)


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3.5-4 years

  • Uses 1000-1500 words

  • Uses the sounds “b”, “d”, “k”, “g”, “f”, and “y”

  • Is usually very intelligible during connected speech

  • Responds to three-step commands

  • Asks “how”, “why”, and “when” questions, asks for explanations

  • Answers “what if” questions (e.g., “what would you do if you fell down?”)

  • Can tell very simple stories

  • “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “me”, “mine” are used correctly, consistently; “they” and “their” may still be inconsistent

  • Requests permission

  • Corrects others


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4-4.5 years

  • Easy to understand; very few substituted or deleted consonants

  • Can count to 10

  • Uses imaginative play frequently

  • Correctly uses “this” vs. “that”, “here” vs. “there”

  • Correctly uses “could” and “would”

  • Produces sentences of 4-7 words

  • Produces “unfocused chain” narratives (e.g., a story with a series of events but no central character or theme)

  • Correctly uses “our”, “they”, and “their”

  • May make frequent errors of agreement (e.g., “he run” or “I runs”)


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4.5-5 years

  • Easy to understand, but may still have some speech errors, especially for difficult words with consonant combinations (e.g., “spring”)

  • Uses 1500-2000 words

  • Answers simple “when” questions (e.g., “when do you we sleep?”)

  • Asks for the meanings of unfamiliar words

  • Points to basic colors on request (i.e., red, yellow, green, and blue)

  • Produces sentences of 5-8 words

  • Follows three-step directions


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5-7 years

  • Can produce all consonants by age 7, including “r”, “s”, and “l”

  • Understands “opposites” (e.g., the opposite of cold is…)

  • Understands “more”/”less”, “some”, “many”, “several”, “few”, “most”/“least”, “before”/”after”, and “now”/”later”

  • By age 6, knows right from left

  • Tells stories with a character and a series of events. 6-7 year-olds will begin to provide an ending to the story.

  • Names colors

  • Names 5 letters of the alphabet

  • Names days of the week, in order


References:
Pro-Ed Inc. Speech Language Development Chart, Pro-Ed Inc.