Language Development in Children

Language and communication skills are important to a child’s development. The information below describes each stage of language development in children from birth to age 5.

Birth to 3 months:

  • Makes cooing sounds, mostly vowels
  • Has different cries for different needs
  • Smiles at you
  • Startles (Jumps) to loud sounds
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound
  • Begins to tell the difference between human voices and other sounds

4 to 6 months:

  • Babbles and makes different sounds including b, m
  • Makes Sounds that vary in volume and pitch
  • Makes sounds back when you talk
  • Enjoys games like peek-a- boo
  • Turns his/her eyes towards a sound source
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound
  • Responds to music or toys that make noise

7-12 months:

  • Waves hi/bye
  • Responds to his/her name
  • Will let you know what he/she wants using sounds, and/or actions like pointing
  • Begins to follow simple directions (for example: Where is your nose?)
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound
  • Turns his/her head toward the source of sound
  • Pays attention when spoken to
  • Babbles both long and short groups of sounds such as ‘tata ubub”
  • Has one or two words “hi, dada, mama”

12 to 18 months:

  • Uses common words and starts to put words together
  • Enjoys listening to storybooks
  • Points to body parts or pictures in a book when asked
  • Looks at your face when talking to you

18 to 24 months:

  • Understands more words than he/she can say
  • Can say two words together (for example more juice)
  • Can ask simple questions (For example what is that?)
  • Takes turns in a conversation
  • Uses many different sounds

2 to 3 years:

  • Uses sentences of three or more words most of the time
  • Understands different concepts (for example: in-on; up-down)
  • Follows two-part directions (take the book and put it on the table)
  • Asks questions such as why
  • Answers simple questions (for example: Where is the car?)
  • Participates in short conversations

3 to 4 years:

  • Can tell a short story or talk about daily activities
  • Can talk in sentences with adult-like grammar
  • Can speak clearly so people understand
  • Hears you when you call from another room
  • Listens to TV at the same volume as others
  • Answers a variety of questions

4 to 5 years:

  • Pronounces most speech sounds correctly
  • Participates in and understands conversations even in the presence of background noise
  • Recognizes familiar signs such as stop sign
  • Makes up rhymes
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and school
  • Listens to and retells a story and can ask and answer questions about a story