Milestones in Children's Speech and Language

Early childhood is a very important time in the process of acquiring language. Children start communicating from the moment they are born, developing skills critical to their future success. While every child learns differently, here we look at some of the typical language development milestones.

During the first year, infants become better at discriminating speech and language sounds, turning to the source of sounds and responding to the sounds you make. They can understand their first word as young as 5 months.

By 12 months, babies are following simple one-step directions such as "sit down". They may be using their first few words but also commonly use gestures to communicate.

Child speech and language development

By 2 years toddlers are typically using at least 20 words and responding with words or gestures to simple questions. They enjoy being read to and looking at simple books with you and "reading" to their stuffed animals or toys.

By age 3 a toddler will typically have learnt more than 350 words. They will learn the concepts of size and quantity and some adult grammar such as using plurals and past tense. They may be using more complex words with two or more syllables.

By age 5, children have essentially mastered the sound system and grammar of their language and acquired a vocabulary of thousands of words.

There are lots of easy ways to encourage your child's language development. Let them touch and hold books while you point to and name the pictures. Use lots of different words when you talk to them and take the time to listen - there is very strong evidence that children who hear more speech and particularly more complex speech, will acquire language skills more rapidly.

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