Language Developmental Milestones

While every child develops language at his/her own pace, use the general milestones below as a guide to normal speech and language development.

Infant ~ 3 months

  • Looks at the face of a speaker
  • Smiles when hears familiar sound and spoken to
  • Stares at a speaker regularly
  • Startled upon hearing loud sounds
  • Makes "cooing" sounds
  • Makes sounds expressing pleasure
  • Cries differently for different needs

By the end of 6 months

  • Makes gurgling sounds when playing with you or left alone
  • Babbles and makes a variety of sounds
  • Uses his or her voice to express pleasure and displeasure
  • Moves his or her eyes in the direction of sounds
  • Responds to changes in the tone of your voice
  • Notices that some toys make sounds
  • Pays attention to music

By the end of 12 months

  • Tries imitating words
  • Says a few words, such as "dada," "mama" and "uh-oh"
  • Understands simple instructions, such as "Come here"
  • Recognizes words for common items, such as shoe
  • Turns and look in the direction of sounds
  • Responds to "no"
  • Recognizes name
  • Imitates familiar words
  • Understands simple instructions
  • Recognizes words as symbols for objects

By the end of 18 months

  • Points to an object or picture when it's named
  • Recognizes names of familiar people, objects and body parts
  • Follows simple directions accompanied by gestures
  • Says as many as 10 to 20 words
  • Understands “no”
  • Waves good-bye
  • Makes the sounds of familiar animals

By the end of 24 months

  • Uses simple phrases, such as "more milk"
  • Combines two words
  • Asks one- to two-word questions, such as "Go bye-bye?"
  • Follows simple commands without the help of gestures
  • Gives toys when asked
  • Points to his or her toes, eyes, nose, hand, feet
  • Brings objects from another room when asked
  • Speaks at least 50 words

By the end of 36 months

  • Identifies body parts
  • Asks simple questions
  • Uses 2-word negative phrases
  • Has a 450 word vocabulary
  • Tries to get adult attention
  • Likes to hear same story repeated
  • Talks to another children/adults
  • Names common pictures and things
  • Matches 3-4 colors
  • Knows big and little
  • Combines nouns and verbs (mommy go)
  • Uses short sentences (me want more, me want cookie)

Between three and four

  • Can tell a story
  • Has a sentence length of 4-5 words
  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1000 words
  • Names at least one color
  • Begins to obey requests by others (put the block under the chair)
  • Knows his/her last name
  • Knows several nursery rhymes

Between four and five

  • Uses past tense correctly
  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1500 words
  • Points to colors
  • Identifies shapes
  • Can speak of imaginary conditions (I hope...)
  • Asks many questions

Between five and six

  • Has a sentence length of 5-6 words
  • Has a vocabulary of around 2000 words
  • Defines objects by their use and can what objects are made of
  • Knows his/her address
  • Identifies a penny, nickel, and dime
  • Counts 1-10
  • Asks questions for information
  • Distinguishes left and right hand

Do many activities with your child, talking about what you are doing and where you are going. Give ample language experience by eye contact, gesture, smile, and appropriate response when your child initiates interaction. Model your child’s motion, animal sound, singing, taking turns, counting, and so on.

If your child shows delay in mastering above milestones for his/her age or you have any concerns regarding speech and language development, do not hesitate in contacting your child’s doctor. Delay in language development may be caused by a variety of reasons, including hearing loss or developmental disabilities.

Useful links:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Mayo Clinic: