Milestones of a Child's Speech Development

All children develop differently, and speech is no exception. There are, however, milestones in a child's speech development that are reached by most children.

Here are some linguistic milestones that you can expect your child to reach during the first five years.

Birth to 12 months

  • Understands "no"            
  • Tries to repeat sounds
  • Recognizes his own name
  • Says 2-3 words besides "mama" and "dada"
  • Imitates some familiar words

1-2 years

  • Can spend time with a book for about 2 minutes and likes being read to
  • Waves goodbye
  • Follows simple directions and commands
  • Uses the names of common foods and body parts
  • Understands simple verbs such as "eat" and "sleep"    
  • Can pronounce most vowels and the letters n, m, p, and h
  • Makes animal sounds such as "meow"
  • Starts to combine words
  • Begins to use "mine" and other pronouns   

2-3 years

  • Has a 450 word vocabulary
  • Knows some spatial concepts such as "in" and "on"        
  • Knows descriptive words such as "big," "happy."        
  • Speech is more accurate but may still leave off end sounds.
  • Can use two- to three-word phrases with nouns and verbs
  • Uses question inflections
  • Begins to use plurals and past tense
  • Carries on conversations with himself and toys
  • Starts to use "me" to refer to himself
  • Asks what and where things are
  • Uses two-word negative phrases such as "no want"
  • May say "no" when he means "yes"
  • Names common pictures and things

3-4 years

  • Has a 1,000-word vocabulary
  • Groups objects such as foods and toys
  • Can tell a story
  • Uses four- to five-word sentences
  • Can identify colors
  • Uses most speech sounds but may still distort sounds like l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z and th
  • Uses consonants in the beginning, middle and ends of words.   
  • Strangers are able to understand most of what he says        
  • Can describe the use of objects
  • Enjoys poems, nursery rhymes and jokes
  • Knows his own last name and what street he lives on

4-5 years

  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1,500 words
  • Understands spatial concepts such as "behind" and "next to"        
  • Understands complex questions       
  • Speech is generally understandable but has trouble pronouncing complex and long words
  • Uses some irregular past tense verbs such as "ran"   
  • Describes how to do things       
  • Can define words       
  • Lists items that belong in a category
  • Understands time concepts such as "in the morning" and "next"
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