Speech and Language Development


If you are a concerned parent, following is a general guideline on typical speech and language development. Keep in mind that individual differences occur; however normal communication development generally falls within the timelines given.

Between the ages of 6-9 months, a child:

  • Babbles in repeated syllables, such as “bababa”
  • Uses the “m, n, t, d, b, p” when babbling syllables
  • Uses inflection in babbling
  • Understands parental gestures
  • Looks at common objects and familiar people when named
  • Imitates large gestures
  • Initiates vocalizing to a familiar person

By the age of 1 year, a child:

  • Jabbers loudly
  • Uses most sounds in jabber/babbling patterns
  • Shows evidence of first true word (10-18 months)
  • Understands and follows simple directions involving body movement
  • Responds to his/her name
  • Shakes head for “no”
  • Waves “bye bye”
  • Participates in hand games like “patty cake”

By the age of 18 months, a child:

  • May imitate a few words
  • Uses most sounds, but speech continues to be unintelligible, with some initial and final consonants missing
  • Follows simple one part directions using “in/on”
  • Points to named objects in real life or pictures
  • Points to some body parts
  • Uses mostly nouns to speak
  • Interacts for requesting objects or attention
  • Answers very simple “wh” questions

By the age of 2 years, a child:

  • Uses more words than jargon
  • Uses intonation to denote a question
  • Uses final sounds
  • Understands 300 words
  • Speaks 50 words
  • Names some animals with associated sounds
  • Refers to himself/herself by name
  • Combines 2 words
  • Displays more turn taking with communicative partners
  • Begins asking “wh” questions

Between the ages of 3 to 3 ½ years, a child:

  • Understands 900 words
  • Knows “in, on, under, big, little, matches colors
  • Uses at least 500 words
  • Utterances are generally 3-4 words long
  • Asks simple “wh” questions
  • Can attend to short stories
  • Begins to count
  • Begins to answer more complex questions (What would you do if or “How..”
  • Understands simple pronouns (I, me, he, she)
  • Uses /s, z/ as plural markers (cats, chairs).
  • Uses word ending “ing” (walking).

Between the ages of 4 to 4 ½ years, a child:

  • should have speech that is mostly understood by others
  • masters the “f, k, g,” sounds
  • masters many blends (st, sp, sm, sn, etc)
  • recognizes most primary colors
  • understands “top, bottom, front, back”
  • understands functions of many items
  • uses 4-5 words per utterance
  • counts to ten
  • can discuss emotions and feelings
  • uses more helping verbs like “could, would, etc.”
  • using more word endings ( bigger, helped).
  • Tells stories as a sequence of events

Between the ages of 5-6, a child:

  • uses the sounds “ŋ, l, r”
  • understands 12,000 words or more
  • understands opposites
  • understands more time and quantity concepts
  • uses all pronouns correctly
  • uses proper sentence structures most of the time
  • begins using adverbial endings (slowly, faster)
  • uses utterances that average 6 words
  • tells stories with a main character and sequence of events

Between the ages of 6-7, a child:

  • uses th, sh, ch and j sounds
  • understands approximately 25, 000 words
  • count to 100
  • uses most word endings consistently
  • can use irregular forms of words (rode, drew, mice) more consistently
  • speaks with an average utterance length of 7 words.
  • Tells stories with main character, plot and sequenced events leading to an ending.

By the time a child reaches the age of 8, all speech sounds should be mastered.

**Remember that each child develops differently so certainly some leeway must be used when using the above lists. In addition, these lists are not meant to be inclusive of all communication behaviors at any particular age period.

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