Speech and Language Development In Children


When you have young children, it is amazing to watch them learn and grow. As new parents, we eagerly wait for our little one’s first words. There is true magic in hearing your child say “mama” or “dada” for the 1st time. For most children, their first words quickly turn into many words and soon they are learning and using new words each week. As parents, we are filled with pride to tell others all about their latest skills. “Billy, tell grandma what a cow says.” or “ Ali can say her ABCs”.

But what if your child isn’t talking, or if they talk but you can’t understand what they are saying? What if your child doesn’t seem to understand what you are telling them or can’t follow simple directions? What if your child doesn’t want to play with others? Children are all different and grow at varying rates. There is no normal, but rather a range of time when certain skills are developed by most children. The following information, provided by the American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA), can be used as a guideline in determining whether your child has appropriate speech and language development for their age.

Birth-1 year

What should my child be able to do?

Birth–3 Months

Startles at loud sounds.

Quiets or smiles when you talk.

Seems to recognize your voice. Quiets if crying.

Makes cooing sounds.

Cries change for different needs.

Smiles at people.

4–6 Months

Moves her eyes in the direction of sounds.

Responds to changes in your tone of voice.

Notices toys that make sounds.

Pays attention to music.

Coos and babbles when playing alone or with you.

Makes speech-like babbling sounds, like pa, ba, and mi.

Giggles and laughs.

Makes sounds when happy or upset.

7 Months–1 Year

Turns and looks in the direction of sounds.

Looks when you point.

Turns when you call her name.

Understands words for common items and people—words like cup, truck, juice, and daddy.

Starts to respond to simple words and phrases, like “No,” “Come here,” and “Want more?”

Plays games with you, like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.

Listens to songs and stories for a short time.

Babbles long strings of sounds, like mimi upup babababa.

Uses sounds and gestures to get and keep attention.

Points to objects and shows them to others.

Uses gestures like waving bye, reaching for “up,” and shaking his head no.

Imitates different speech sounds.

Says 1 or 2 words, like hi, dog, dada, mama, or uh-oh. This will happen around his first birthday, but sounds may not be clear.

1 year-2 years

What should my child be able to do?

Points to a few body parts when you ask.

Follows 1-part directions, like "Roll the ball" or "Kiss the baby."

Responds to simple questions, like “Who’s that?” or “Where’s your shoe?”

Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.

Points to pictures in a book when you name them.

Uses a lot of new words.

Uses p, b, m, h, and w in words.

Starts to name pictures in books.

Asks questions, like “What's that?”, “Who’s that?”, and “Where’s kitty?”

Puts 2 words together, like "more apple," "no bed," and "mommy book."

2 years- 3 years

What should my child be able to do?

Responds when you call from another room.

Understands words for some colors, like red, blue, and green.

Understands words for some shapes, like circle and square.

Understands words for family, like brother, and grandmother.

Has a word for almost everything.

Uses 2-3 words to talk about and ask for things.

Uses k,g,f,t,d, and n sounds.

Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time

Often asks for or directs attention to objects by naming them.

3 years - 4 years

What should my child be able to do?

Answers simple who, what, and where questions.

Says rhyming words, like hat–cat.

Uses pronouns, like I, you, me, we, and they.

Uses some plural words, like toys, birds, and buses.

Most people understand what your child says.

Asks when and how questions.

Puts 4 words together. May make some mistakes, like “I goed to school.”

Talks about what happened during the day. Uses about 4 sentences at a time.

4 years - 5 years

What should my child be able to do?

Understands words for order, like first, next, and last.

Understands words for time, like yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Follows longer directions, like “Put your pajamas on, brush your teeth, and then pick out a book.”

Follows classroom directions, like “Draw a circle on your paper around something you eat.”

Hears and understands most of what she hears at home and in school.

Says all speech sounds in words. May make mistakes on sounds that are harder to say, like l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, and th.

Responds to “What did you say?”

Talks without repeating sounds or words most of the time.

Names letters and numbers.

Uses sentences that have more than 1 action word, like jump, play, and get. May make some mistakes, like “Zach gots 2 video games, but I got one.”

Tells a short story.

Keeps a conversation going.

Talks in different ways, depending on the listener and place. Your child may use short sentences with younger children. He may talk louder outside than inside.

*** “How Does Your Child Hear and Talk? American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Web. 14 Mar. 2015

If your child is not meeting these developmental milestones, it’s a good idea to speak with your child’s Pediatrician. If you have additional concerns, a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist will be able to talk with you about your concerns and may recommend that your child be evaluated for a possible speech and language delay.

If you have specific questions or concerns with your child's communication skills, please call us for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation at 814-201-6670.

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