Important Milestones You Need To Know About Speech & Language Development

As moms, we can tend to worry about our kids and whether or not they are "on track". Every child is different and will progress at his own pace, however, there are certain milestones that are set as a way to assess if a child may have a delay in speech or language development. Whether or not you are concerned about your development, it's important to know the milestones. This way, you will be able to identify whether or not your child may need to evaluated.

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This is not an exhaustive list but it should give you a basic idea of where your toddler is at with speech milestones. Make sure you read through to the end for a tip I learned from a speech therapist! 

12 months

At one year, your baby's imitation of sounds should be increasing. And it is around this point that your child should have a couple of words, in addition to "mama" & "dada". Your 12 month old will start talking "jibberish", expressive communication with changes in tone but it is not intelligible. Your little one should also be able to take simple instructions, such as "Give me the ball". 

18 months

By this point, your toddler should be able to say anywhere from 50 - 100 words, including names and common objects. Somewhere between 1 and 2, toddlers start to use words rather than sounds to express what they want. Begins repeating all or parts of what others say. Your toddler will also start making animal sounds & naming common actions like "kiss" and "hug". 

24 months

By 2 years old, your toddler will have 150-300 words in her vocabulary and should be starting to combine two words to make simple sentences, like "more milk". He should also be able to point out common objects and body parts. 50% of what your child can be understood by others (non-parents). Jibberish stops and simple (descriptive) sentences start. Names concepts like "hot" and "cold" or "big" and "little". Says "what" and "why". Your toddler is beginning to understand slightly more complex instructions, like "Pick up your [popsicle] stick and throw it away" That's a common one in our house! 

There will be a lot going on between ages 2 and 3! 

30 months

Your toddler will have over 500 words at 2.5 years old. He will also be speaking in some plurals and understands past tense and action words. Toddlers also are understanding gender at this point. 

3 years old

By his third birthday, your (now) preschooler's vocabulary will include more words than you can count and he will be formulating sentences with 3-6 words. Your child will be able to identify a few colors and understands 3 part instructions. Your child will also now refer to himself as "me" and asks "who", "whose", "why", "how many". She will also use pronouns "I", "you", "he", "she", "they". 

4 years old

At age 4, 75-90% of what your child says can be understood by a stranger. He will have added the pronouns, ““me”, “him”, “her”, “we”, “us”, “them”. A 4 year old will typically talk to herself often, begin dramatic play, express ideas and feelings. Your preschooler will also show frustration when people do not understand what he is saying.

5 years old

Your 5 year old will be using most of the pronouns, “I”, “me”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “him”, “her”, “we”, “us”, “they”, them” as well as possessive pronouns, “my”, “mine”, “yours”, “your”, “his”, “her”, “hers”, “our”, “ours”, “their”, theirs” and “myself”, “ourselves”, “yourself”, “yourselves”, “herself”, “themselves”. Your child will also use justification phrases such as, “Please don’t do that, it hurts”. She can also hold a basic conversation and uses her words to resolve conflict. Your 5 year old will also use imaginary statements such as “I wish I could…”.

How to Count Your Child's Words | Speech & Language Development Tips for Moms | Important Speech Milestones |

Pro tip

If you're anything like me, you might lose track or have a hard time with trying to literally count every word your child says. A friend of mine, who is a speech therapist, gave me a great tip for counting words. Go room by room in your house and scan the room for what words your child knows. For example, if I look in my son's room I can name off the words he knows... "trains, bed, shoes, pants, shirt, car, closet, window...". Write down how many words you could identify in the room, then go on to the next. This is a really simple way to break it down! 

Again, these are typical milestones, each child progresses at his own rate but watching for milestones will help you catch a delay if one exists which will ultimately set your child up for success in the future, especially in school.


Valley Mountain Regional Center 

Michigan Medicine

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This post has been updated for the 31 Days of Kindergarten Readiness series.