Ages and Stages – Language Development Milestones
Babies, toddlers and children all go through various stages when it come to learning language.   Here is a list of things you can look for with your own child(ren).   Please remember that these are averages.  However, if you have any concern with regards to your child’s language development please contact a Speech-Language Therapist. We know that the best intervention is EARLY INTERVENTION and a parent will never regret seeking the advice of a speech therapist too early!

  • startles in response to loud and sudden noises
  • turns to source of sound
  • watches speakers face
  • smiles and laughs in response to speakers smiles and laughs
  • imitates coughs or other early vocalizations (e.g. ah, eh, buh)


  • responds to name
  • responds to common sounds (e.g. phone ringing,  doorbell)
  • understands being told “no”
  • gets basic needs met through gesturing (e.g. lifting arms up to be picked up)
  • plays social games (e.g. peek-a-boo)
  • babbles and repeats sounds (e.g. babababa, duhduhduh)
  • follows simple one step directions (e.g. sit down) – this happens closer to 12 months
  • looks across room to something being pointed at
  • uses 2-3 words (not necessarily clear) – by approximately 12 months
  • uses some gestures socially (e.g. waving “bye”, shaking head “no”, blowing a kiss)
  • gets caregivers attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while making eye contact
  • brings toys to show you
  • “performs” for attention and praise
  • By 12 months combines variety of sounds to sound like “talking” (e.g. abada duhba abee)
  • shows interest in simple picture books


  • understands basic concepts “in” and “out”, “off” and “on”
  • points to several body parts when asked (e.g. nose, eyes, ears, mouth, hair, hands, feet, belly)
  • uses approximately 20 words (around 18 months)
  • responds to simple questions with words and/or gestures (e.g. “where is the ball?” “what’s that?”)
  • demonstrates simple pretend play (e.g. gives doll a drink, feeds bear)
  • makes at least 4 different consonant sounds (e.g. b, p, m, n, d, w, h)
  • enjoys being read to and looks through simple books with caregiver
  • points to pictures using one finger


  • follows two-step directions (e.g. “go find the ball and bring it to dad”)
  • uses at least 2 pronouns (e.g. mine, me, you, my)
  • uses 100+ words (by 24 months)
  • consistently combines words into 2 or more word phrases (e.g. “daddy shoe”, “car go up”)
  • enjoys being with others
  • begins offering toys to peers and imitates peers actions/words
  • holds books right way up and turns pages
  • pretends to “read”
  • unfamiliar listeners can understand approximately 50-60% of child’s words


  • Understands differences in meaning (e.g. “go-stop”, “in-on”, “big-little”)
  • Enjoys listening to books for longer periods of time
  • Has a word for almost everything in their environment
  • Speech becomes clearer (by age 3, 75% of speech should be understood by an unfamiliar listener)
  • Asks “why”
  • By 36 months language contains grammar (not always correct) and sentences take on a more “adult” form.


  • Hears when you call them from another room
  • Listens to TV/Radio at same loudness level as others
  • Recognizes 2-3 colors (e.g. red, blue, green)
  • Recognizes a few basic shapes (e.g. square, circle, triangle)
  • Tells small stories using approximately 4 sentences
  • Unfamiliar listeners understand approximately 90% of child’s speech (by age 4)
  • Answers simple questions (e.g. “who is coming over?”, “where is the ball?”, “what is that?”)
  • Asks “when” and “how”
  • Starts making basic rhymes (e.g. “hat-cat”, “mitt-sit”)
  • Uses more pronouns including “I, you, me, we and they”
  • Uses some simple plurals (e.g. birds, shoes, trees)
  • Majority of sentences contain 4+ words

Published by Anna Keno - Speech Language Therapist (BSLT, MNZSTA, ASB, ATCL, MSCA)

Posted: Tuesday 23 April 2019