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Language Milestones

Are you worried your child isn’t meeting the speech and language milestones that he or she should?  Here is a checklist of language developmental norms for children by age. 


By age one


  • Recognizes name

  • Says 2-3 words besides "mama" and "dada"

  • Imitates familiar words

  • Understands simple instructions

  • Recognizes words as symbols for objects: car - points to garage, cat - meows


Activities to encourage your child's language

  • Respond to your child's coos, gurgles, and babbling

  • Talk to your child as you care for him or her throughout the day

  • Read colorful books to your child every day

  • Tell nursery rhymes and sing songs

  • Teach your child the names of everyday items and familiar people

  • Take your child with you to new places and situations

  • Play simple games with your child such as "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake"


Between one and two


  • Understands "no"

  • Uses 10 to 20 words, including names

  • Combines two words such as "daddy bye-bye"

  • Waves good-bye and plays pat-a-cake

  • Makes the "sounds" of familiar animals

  • Gives a toy when asked

  • Uses words such as "more" to make wants known

  • Points to his or her toes, eyes, and nose

  • Brings object from another room when asked


Activities to encourage your child's language

  • Reward and encourage early efforts at saying new words

  • Talk to your baby about everything you're doing while you're with him

  • Talk simply, clearly, and slowly to your child

  • Talk about new situations before you go, while you're there, and again when you are home

  • Look at your child when he or she talks to you

  • Describe what your child is doing, feeling, hearing

  • Let your child listen to children's records and tapes

  • Praise your child's efforts to communicate


Between two and three


  • Identifies body parts

  • Carries on 'conversation' with self and dolls

  • Asks "what's that?" And "where's my?"

  • Uses 2-word negative phrases such as "no want".

  • Forms some plurals by adding "s"; book, books

  • Has a 450 word vocabulary (expressively)

  • Understands 2,400 words

  • Gives first name, holds up fingers to tell age

  • Combines nouns and verbs "mommy go"

  • Understands simple time concepts: "last night", "tomorrow"

  • Refers to self as "me" rather than by name

  • Tries to get adult attention: "watch me"

  • Likes to hear same story repeated

  • May say "no" when means "yes"

  • Talks to other children as well as adults

  • Solves problems by talking instead of hitting or crying

  • Answers "where" questions

  • Names common pictures and things

  • Uses short sentences like "me want more" or "me want cookie"

  • Matches 3-4 colors, knows big and little


Activities to encourage your child's language

  • Repeat new words over and over

  • Help your child listen and follow instructions by playing games: "pick up the ball," "Touch Daddy's s nose"

  • Take your child on trips and talk about what you see before, during and after the trip

  • Let your child tell you answers to simple questions

  • Read books every day, perhaps as part of the bedtime routine

  • Listen attentively as your child talks to you

  • Describe what you are doing, planning, thinking

  • Have the child deliver simple messages for you (Mommy needs you, Daddy )

  • Carry on conversations with the child, preferably when the two of you have some quiet time together

  • Ask questions to get your child to think and talk

  • Show the child you understand what he or she says by answering, smiling, and nodding your head

  • Expand what the; child says. If he or she says, "more juice," you say, "Sam wants more juice."


Between three and four


  • Can tell a story

  • Has a sentence length of 4-5 words

  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1000 words

  • Understands over 4000 words

  • Names at least one color

  • Understands "yesterday," "summer", "lunchtime", "tonight", "little-big"

  • Begins to obey requests like "put the block under the chair"

  • Knows his or her last name, name of street on which he/she lives and several nursery rhymes


Activities to encourage your child's language

  • Talk about how objects are the same or different

  • Help your child to tell stories using books and pictures

  • Let your child play with other children

  • Read longer stories to your child

  • Pay attention to your child when he's talking

  • Talk about places you've been or will be going


Between four and five


  • Has sentence length of 4-5 words

  • Uses past tense correctly

  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1500 words

  • Understands 5600 words

  • Points to colors red, blue, yellow and green

  • Identifies triangles, circles and squares

  • Understands "In the morning" , "next", "noontime"

  • Can speak of imaginary conditions such as "I hope"

  • Asks many questions, asks "who?" And "why?"


Activities to encourage your child's language

  • Help your child sort objects and things (ex. things you eat, animals.)

  • Teach your child how to use the telephone

  • Let your child help you plan activities such as what you will make for Thanksgiving dinner

  • Continue talking with him about his interests

  • Read longer stories to him

  • Let her tell and make up stories for you

  • Show your pleasure when she comes to talk with you


Between five and six


  • Has a sentence length of 5-6 words

  • Has a vocabulary of around 2000 words

  • Understands 10,000 words

  • Defines objects by their use (you eat with a fork) and can tell what objects are made of

  • Knows spatial relations like "on top", "behind", "far" and "near"

  • Knows her address

  • Identifies a penny, nickel and dime

  • Knows common opposites like "big/little"

  • Understands "same" and "different"

  • Counts ten objects

  • Asks questions for information

  • Distinguished left and right hand in herself

  • Uses all types of sentences, for example "let's go to the store after we eat"


Activities to encourage your child's language

  • Praise your child when she talks about her feelings, thoughts, hopes and fears

  • Comment on what you did or how you think your child feels

  • Sing songs, rhymes with your child

  • Continue to read longer stories

  • Talk with him as you would an adult

  • Look at family photos and talk to him about your family history

  • Listen to her when she talks to you


*Adapted from PRO-ED Inc. Language Milestone Chart



Helpful Resources


It Takes Two To Talk: A Practical Guide For Parents of Children With Language Delays Paperback – Illustrated, November 30, 2004

by Jan Pepper  (Author), Elaine Weitzman (Author)



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