Speech Milestones Infants, Toddlers and Preschool

Speech Milestones in Children

It is very normal as a mother, well I think, to worry and fret and possibly compare what our children are doing with other children – especially when it comes to first teeth, walking, crawling and of course talking.  Reality is every child is so different.

I know with my son, he did seem to reach those typical speech milestones but from two and a half years he just began to gabble and it was very obvious he didn’t understand instructions.

He often repeated the words back to you so if you asked him a basic question he just repeated. For example: What’s your name? He’s just repeat what’s your name?

Learning to speak and listen is a very normal part of development.  I have outlined below a list of milestones for speech in children that can guide mothers, carers or guardians.  Help us understand what is within the normal or expected milestones in our kids first five years.

Of course if you ever have any doubts always go to a GP, Maternal Health nurse or Pediatrician and they can direct you to a by referral to a speech pathologist or other specialist if required.


Cooing and babbling;

Continual awareness of sound (turns to sound, stops crying when spoken to);

Uses eye gaze to indicate interest.

7-12 MONTHS:

First true words appear (they are often people, or nouns);

Same syllable is repeated (mama, dada);

Child demonstrates increased understanding of daily routines.

By the age of one, your baby should be able to:

  • respond to familiar sounds, such as the telephone ringing, the vacuum cleaner, or the car in the driveway
  • understand simple commands, such as “no”
  • recognise their own name
  • understand the names of familiar objects or people
  • say “dad”, “mumma” and a few other words
  • enjoy songs, music and books
  • try to make familiar sounds, such as car and animal noises


Child says 3-5 words;

Child recognizes his/her name;

Understands simple instructions;

child may use both gestures and vocalizations together

Child understands common objects and actions (e.g., cookie, eat, juice).


Child uses about 10-20 words at age 18 months including names;

Recognition of pictures of familiar persons and objects

Early 2-word combination’s of words emerge;

Needs are requested verbally such as “more, up”;

Child will point, gesture, follow simple commands, imitate simple actions, hum or sing;

24 months (2 years):

Child understands simple questions and commands

Identifies familiar actions/activities in pictures (i.e. “sleeping, eating”)

Follows directions to put objects “on, off, in”

Puts two words together on average

Sentence length of up to three words

Child will refer to self by name

Labels pictures

Final “s” is used for plurals

Vocabulary may jump to 300 words during the year! In fact between the ages of 2 and 4, kids may increase their vocabulary by as much as 2 words per day;

By the age of two, your toddler should be able to:

  • say the names of simple body parts, such as nose or tummy
  • listen to stories and say the names of pictures
  • understand simple sentences, such as “where’s your shoe?”
  • use more than fifty words such as “no”, “gone”, “mine”, “teddy”
  • talk to themselves or their toys during play
  • sing simple songs, such as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, or “Baa baa black sheep”
  • use some pronouns instead of names, such as “he”, “it”
  • try simple sentences, such as “milk all gone”

30 months (2 1/2 years):

Child has about 450 word vocabulary;

Child is able to give his/her first name;

Child uses past tense, plurals, and combines nouns and verbs;

Begin to identify objects from a group by their function and parts (ie. “which one has wheels?”, “which one can we eat?”);

Begin to use verbs with “ing” endings (i.e. “eating”);

Early concepts such as “big, little” are identified;

Child will use “no, not” and answer “where” questions.

3 years:

Child will name at least one color;

Child will often talk during play, or when alone;

Child can tell a basic story or idea;

Child can use 3-4 word sentences;

Begins to understand “not”;

Can identify items in a familiar category or group (i.e. “show me the animal”);

Child can have a vocabulary of up to 1000 words;

Children are often able to tell their name and street.

By the age of three, your child should be able to:

  • understand how objects are used – a crayon is something to draw with
  • recognise their own needs, such as hunger
  • follow directions
  • use three to four word sentences
  • begin to use basic grammar
  • enjoy telling stories and asking questions
  • have favourite books and television programs
  • be understood by familiar adults

4 years:

Child will follow 2-3 step commands;

Child will ask many questions, including “who/why”;

Child talks in 4-5 word sentences;

Understands and verbalizes spatial concepts more readily such as “on, under, next to..”;

Child will talk in the past tense correctly.

By the age of four, your child should be able to:

  • understand shape and colour names
  • understand some “time” words, such as lunch time, today, winter
  • ask who, what and why questions
  • use lots of words, about 900, usually in four to five word sentences
  • use correct grammar with occasional mistakes, such as “I falled down”
  • use language when playing with other children
  • speak clearly enough to be understood by most people

5 years:

Child defines objects by their function;

Identifies spatial concepts such as “on, behind”;

Child uses 5-6 word sentences;

Child understands many opposites;

Child can use different tenses (past, present, future), and many sentence types.

By the age of five, your child should be able to:

  • understand opposites, such as high and low, wet and dry, big and little
  • use sentences of about six words with correct grammar
  • talk about events which are happening, have happened or might happen
  • explain why something happens, such as “Mum’s car stopped because the petrol ran out”
  • explain the function of objects, for example, “This scrunchie keeps my hair away”
    follow three directions, for example, “Stand up, get you shoes on and wait by the door”
  • say how they feel and tell you their ideas
  • become interested in writing, numbers and reading things
  • speak clearly enough to be understood by anyone

6-7 years:

Child is developing phonological (sound/letter) awareness skills, and sound/word segmentation skills;

Can generate creative sentences;

Understands time/space concepts such as “before/after, first/second/last”.

** Sources and references:
Speechdelay.com and Speech Pathology Australia