Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

Speech and communication are significant factors in a child’s development. Speech development milestones help us understand whether a child has mastered age-appropriate speech and language skills.

By Amrita Gracias

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

The ability to understand language begins developing for children while still in the womb. However, most of the developments related to speech take place between the ages of 2 and 5 years. A newborn baby communicates only through his cry. But, as he grows up, he understands the need for communication using speech. And, he begins to communicate using familiar sounds that everyone, including him, can identify and recognise. This communication includes both receptive and expressive language skills. While receptive language skills include the ability to understand words and language, expressive language skills entail using words to communicate what we feel or mean.

Parents should bear in mind that language and speech capabilities assist and impact areas like academic performance as well as social relationships. So, it is crucial to monitor the development of speech skills.

Here is a list of age-appropriate speech development milestones that your child should achieve.

0 – 3 months:

  • Identifies mother’s voice
  • Is alert and responds or reacts to sounds and voices
  • Makes cooing and gurgling sounds to express pleasure
  • Can sustain cooing for 15 – 20 seconds

3 – 6 months:

  • Can blow bubbles
  • Smiles at parents or familiar people
  • Babbles
  • Vocalises pleasure or displeasure
  • Recognises his own name

6 – 9 months:

  • Hears words as distinct sounds
  • Enjoys repeating sounds heard
  • Recognises tone of voice
  • May say words like ‘mamma’ or ‘dada’

9 – 12 months:

  • Begins saying actual words
  • Recognises pictures or objects when named
  • Uses gestures like waving to communicate
  • Follows simple instructions like, “Come here” and “Sit down”
  • Identifies each parent with the correct name – ‘mamma’ or ‘dada’

12 – 18 months:

  • Combines vocalisation and gestures
  • Uses inarticulate or meaningless speech
  • Names objects on request
  • Identifies and points to up to three body parts on self or doll
  • Imitates familiar words
  • Can associate words with objects

18 – 24 months:

  • Vocabulary consists of both intelligible and made-up words
  • Acquires new words on a regular basis
  • Understands instructions such as, “Give mamma the ball”
  • Uses two-word phrases like, “Read book” or “Mamma come”

2 – 3 years:

  • Speaks in a loud and clear voice
  • Pronounces vowels accurately
  • Says her first name
  • Identifies body parts
  • Names common pictures and objects
  • Refers to self as ‘me’
  • Likes to listen to stories, mostly repetitions of familiar ones
  • Uses short sentences that might include negative words. For example, “Me no want”
  • Uses question words like ‘what’, ‘where’ or ‘why’

3 – 4 years:

  • Possesses increased speech rate
  • Uses words like ‘can’t’ or ‘didn’t
  • Uses sentences with 4 – 5 words
  • Knows several songs or rhymes
  • Can tell a short story
  • Understands and uses concepts like ‘tonight’ or ‘dinnertime’
  • Can express ideas or feelings

4 – 5 years:

  • Uses words like ‘those’, ‘these’, ‘because’, ‘if’, ‘before’ and ‘after’
  • Uses longer sentences, although there might be grammatical errors
  • Asks more questions with ‘has’, ‘does’ or ‘whose’
  • Uses past tense accurately
  • Identifies shapes like circle, square or triangle
  • Ends conversations appropriately

Children master language abilities within an approximate age range. While some do it earlier, others do so at a gradual pace. However, parents should remember that children who are consistently exposed to sounds tend to pick up language skills faster. So, provide ample opportunities for your child to listen, interact and communicate.

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

And, if you have any concerns about your child’s speech development, contact your paediatrician at the earliest. If required, he might recommend certain assessments and therapies that can help in putting things back on track. 

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