Language milestones

All children will grow and develop at different rates, and this is the same for learning to communicate. Some children seem to pick up speech and language rapidly, while others will develop a little more slowly – both are completely normal! Although it can be difficult at times, try not to compare your baby or child’s development with that of others; they’re all unique and will do things at their own pace.

Have a look at the typical stages of language development below to find out more. Have you noticed your baby or child showing some of these skills?

Steps in understanding

  • Listens intently, and may become still and quiet as they listen
  • When feeding, may stop sucking in response to sound
  • Follows sounds with their eyes
  • Smiles when they see parent/carer

Steps in speaking

  • May take turns by moving, cooing and making facial expressions, imitating parent(s)
  • Babbles in a speech-like way, using many different sounds and vowels, including sounds that begin with p, b and m
  • Makes gurgling sounds when alone and when with an adult

Steps in understanding

  • Enjoys playing 'peek-a-boo' and other games
  • Understands some common single words e.g. cup, shoe, mummy, dog, juice
  • Listens intently to talking and to music
  • Responds to simple requests such as 'Come here.'

Steps in speaking

  •  Babbles using longer strings of repetitive sounds e.g. tatada, uppup, bibidi
  • Communicates using gesture, e.g. holding arms up as a request to be lifted and waving bye bye
  • One or two single words by first birthing e.g. Dada, Mumma, Doggie, but may not be said with adult sounds
  • Imitates different speech sounds: f, sh, s, k

Steps in understanding

  • Knows a few body parts and can point to them on request
  • Follows simple commands, e.g. "Where are your shoes?" "Roll the ball."
  • Enjoys simple stories, songs and rhymes
  • Points to pictures, when named, in books

Steps in speaking

  • Uses 1 or 2 word sentences, e.g. "Where cat?" "Daddy gone." "More drink."
  • Vocabulary for single words (objects names and action words) increases
  • Uses many different sounds at the beginning of words

Steps in understanding

  • Understands more than can say
  • Can point to single items on request, e.g. "Where's your nose?" "Find Daddy."
  • Begins to understand simple commands, e.g. "Shut the door." "Get your shoes." "Brush Teddy's hair."
  • Joins in with action songs
  • Sits and listens to stories and books with interest

Steps in speaking

  • Uses 50 or more words to label things and make requests
  • Has a form of a word for most objects
  • Joining two or three words together e.g. "More big milk." "Daddy gone door." "Mummy up now."

Steps in understanding

  • Understands more than 200 words, including in, on, under
  • Understands abstract concepts e.g. big, hot, wet
  • Can identify object by its use, e.g. "Which one do we sleep in?"
  • Begins to play imaginatively with other children and understands sharing

Steps in speaking

  • Has a vocabulary of around 150-200 words
  • Uses 2-4 word sentences such as "Daddy sit down." "Don't like it." "I want big cake." "What's that boy doing?"
  • Speech may be unclear to strangers, but is usually understood by familiar adults at around 3 years
  • Uses k, g, f, t, d and sounds
  • Uses pronouns (me, you, I) but may still make errors
  • May stutter on some sounds or words

Steps in understanding

  • Can understand and respond to talk that refers to things that happened in the past
  • Understands and enjoys basic humour
  • Able to follow a short story and answer simple questions on it

Steps in speaking

  • Has a vocabulary of around 1000 words
  • Uses complete sentences (4-6 words) with some grammar, e.g. past tense (with typical errors such as falled over)
  • Constantly asks questions, especially 'why' questions
  • Speech becomes mostly clear after 4 years, but with some immature sounds: ch, j, sk, sm, l, r, v, th
  • Can play pretend games with other children, with more detail
  • Uses sentences that give detail

If you would like to learn more about what level of language development is expected for your child’s age, or ways in which you can support your child’s speaking and listening skills, check out ICANs Talking Points for parents https://ican.org.uk/i-cans-talking-point/parents/

If you have any questions or worries about your baby or child’s communication and language development, please speak to your Health Visitor.