- Birth to 7 months: The first signs of language are facial expressions, sounds and gestures. A child will look at an object and show excitement, make eye contact, smile at you, laugh and vocalize when you ask a question. Talk to your child about what he is doing so he can hear lots of words. “Baby talk” is okay if he likes it.
- 7 to 12 months: Your child follows simple directions and responds to the tone of your voice. “Come here,” you say, and she crawls to you. “Ba puh puh boo” your baby might babble. She will point to show you what she wants. When you play together, name the things your baby likes. Sing songs with animal sounds, play peek-a-boo and talk about eyes, nose, ears and toes to build vocabulary.
- 1 to 2 years: Your child uses sounds that almost seem like words. He gestures and points when you ask where things are. His words are more understandable to you. Maybe no one else can understand him, but that’s okay. He’s on the right track. By age 2, your child can use at least 20 to 30 single words to tell you what he wants. At this time, if your child wants milk and says, “Muh,” give the milk and say, “Milk. You said ‘milk’.”
- 2 to 3 years: Your child points and says, “nana” to ask for “banana.” A child starts to form short sentences, such as “Want banana,” or “Mommy no work.” She has about 50 words in her vocabulary. She can say the speech sounds “b, p, m, n, h, w.”
- 3 to 4 years: Your child may have hundreds of words and use four- to five-word sentences. He can understand when you say, “Get your jacket and put on your shoes.” He can say the sounds “p, b, m, h, w, y, t, d, n, k, g and f.” (Sounds such as “s, th, ch, r, l” are usually too hard to say at this age.) Talk to him about colors, size, shapes and qualities, such as “fuzzy, bumpy and scratchy.”
- After 4 years: Your child can answer questions such as, “How did your shirt get wet?” She can use complete sentences like, “James goes to school on the bus.” She will have conversations and tell you stories. She may talk about things she did at pre-school. Your child is starting to sound like a grown-up.
While every child develops at their own pace, it’s important for parents to be aware of milestones to track their child’s development. If a parent has any concerns about their child’s language development, he or she should speak to their child’s pediatrician or contact the early intervention office in their county to request a free developmental screening.
Susan Desmond, MS, CCC-SLP, is a Speech Language Pathologist at Early Childhood CARES, an agency that provides early intervention and early childhood special education services to Lane County children ages birth to 5. If you have concerns about your child’s development, call Early Childhood CARES at 541-346-2578 or 800-925-8694 to schedule a free developmental screening in English or Spanish. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.