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speech and language milestones

When Should My Baby Start Talking? Speech and Language Milestones in the First Year

Many parents wonder, “When should my baby start talking?” Typically developing children usually say their first words between 12 and 14 months of age. However, your baby is learning to communicate long before he ever speaks. Here are some important speech and language milestones to note as your baby grows.

Speech and Language Milestones: When They Happen and Why They are Important:

Speech and language milestones at 0-3 months:

  • Watches speaker’s mouth: Your baby is starting to understand how speech sounds are made. He may even begin to move his mouthspeech and language milestones to match some of your movements. Observation and imitation of what he observes is essential to your baby’s development of speech and language, as it allows him to experience what you model, first hand, so that he can later use those articulatory movements to communicate.
  • Discriminates between angry and friendly voices: At a very basic level, your baby is learning to understand the different messages that can be communicated.
  • Has a hunger cry and vocalizes to show pleasure: This is one of the first steps toward understanding that communication can be used to meet different needs, wants, and feelings.

Speech and language milestones at 4 to 6 months:

  • Imitates some sounds: Again, imitation is one of the primary ways that your baby learns. By watching, listening, and copying your movements, he experiences what it is like to make them. He can practice and compare his own movements and sounds to yours.
  • Uses /p/, /b/, and /m/ to babble: Your baby is gaining more control over the muscles of his mouth and starting to experiment with speech sounds. He is practicing so that he can later use these sounds in a more meaningful way: saying true words to communicate.
  • Takes turns vocalizing: Language requires taking turns most of the time: one person talks while the other listens. When your baby takes turns vocalizing, he is laying the foundation for skills he will need to play and participate in conversation later in life.

Speech and language milestones at 7-12 months:

  • Responds to noises that are not visible and searches for hidden objects: Your baby’s understanding that objects exist even when he can’t see them likely indicates that he has started forming mental representations of his world. The development of symbolic understanding is necessary to his development of language and pretend play. We use words, not physical things, to represent ideas. Before your baby can use a word to represent something, the idea of the physical thing needs to be separated from the thing itself.
  • Responds to “Come here”: Your baby’s ability to follow directions is an indication that he is developing an understanding of what you are saying. Language comprehension typically develops more quickly than expression. Your baby needs to listen, understand, and internalize the meaning of language before he can use its meaning to express himself.

Speech and language milestones at 12-14 months:

Says 1-2 words: Hooray! These words may not be perfectly articulated, but they are an indication that your baby has learned to associate a series set sounds to a particular meaning AND that he can use those sounds to communicate that meaning. For example, your baby may have already started looking for “Mama” when her name was said by someone else, however, now he can use the word “Mama” to request her, ask where she is, get her attention, etc.

What can I do to help my baby start talking?

Click here to read more about encouraging your baby’s speech and language development.




First Sounds and First Words | What to Expect from Your Baby

Talking. Some of us don’t like to do it and some of us do it too much. But one of the most exciting things for parents is to witness their child’s first words. Babies learn to talk throughout their first two years of life and believe it or not, there are speech and language milestones that are achieved in the first few months of life. Here is a general outline of the speech and language milestones your child should be achieving from birth to 2 years.

Speech and Language Milestones from Birth to 2 Years:

Birth to 3 months

• Variety of cries to indicate needs – hungry, in need of a diaper change, or upset
• Coos, sighs, gurgles, and makes pleasure sounds
• Recognizes voices
• Localizes to sound by turning head

4 to 6 months

• Uses /p/, /b/, and /m/ to babble
• Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
• Listens to and imitates some sounds
• Responds to changes in your voice

7-12 months

• Babbles using long and short groups of sounds
• Uses a song-like intonation pattern when babbling
• Babbling has both long and  short groups of sounds such as “bababa upup tata”
• Has 1 or two words, though they may not be clear
• Uses communicative gestures such as pointing, pulling, and waving

12-18 months

• Uses nouns almost exclusively
• Uses jargon to fill gaps in fluency
• Combines gestures and vocalization
• Says more words each month, by 18 months child has a vocabulary of approximately 20 words

18 to 24 months

• Uses many different consonant sounds at beginning of words
• Expressive vocabulary of 25-50 words
• Imitates many words
• Uses some 1-2 word questions – “What’s that?” “Mommy?”
• Puts two words together – “more cookie” “no book”
• Language explosion typically occurs around 18-24 months; vocabulary grows to 150-300 words by 24 months

Further Reading

For more on Speech and Language Milestones: Birth to Age 1, click here.
For more on Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 1-2, click here.

3 Tips for Promoting Speech and Language Development in Children: Ages 0-3

Ages 0-3 are critical for learning and mastering speech and language. Some babies and toddlers initiate talking earlier speech and language developmentthan others.  If you are looking to encourage speech and language in your little one, read on for easy guidelines to help promote speech and language for young children.

3 Tips for promoting Speech and Language Development in children 0-3 years of age:

1. Use Simple Language:

  • Short sentences are easier to understand and allow your child to pick up the important pieces of the message.
  • Talk about what you are doing as you go about your day. It is easier for a child to pick up new language if he can see or hear the object or action as he is exposed to the vocabulary. Read more

Navigating Early Speech & Language Milestones: What to Expect Between Ages 2 and 3

Parents often wonder if their child’s skills are developing typically.  Between gross motor skills, fine motor skills, speech-language skills, social-emotional functioning, and overall growth, there is a lot of information to track!  In fact, it might feel overwhelming.  It is important for parents to remember that every child develops at his or her own rate, with some skills emerging faster and other skills taking more time.  When considering your child’s development, referring to developmental milestones can be an excellent guide.

In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed speech and language milestones to expect during the first year of your baby’s life.  In Part 2, we reviewed communication milestones you might expect to see between ages 1 and 2.  Part 3 of this series will discuss what to expect from your child’s communication between ages 2 and 3.  If you feel concerned about your child’s development in this area, seek help from a licensed speech therapist right away.  A trained therapist will give you accurate information, ease your worries, and give your child any help they might need.  Read more

Navigating Early Speech & Language Milestones: What to expect between age 1 and 2

Parents often wonder if their child’s skills are developing typically.  Between gross motor skills, fine motor skills, speech-language skills, social-emotional functioning, and overall growth, there’s a lot to keep track of!  In fact, it might feel overwhelming.  Mother communicating with infantIt’s important for parents to remember that every child develops at their own rate, with some skills emerging faster, and other skills taking more time.  When considering your child’s development, referring to developmental milestones can be an excellent guide.  In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed speech and language milestones to expect during the first year of your baby’s life.  In Part 2, we’ll review communication milestones you might expect to see between age 1 and 2.  If you begin to feel concerned regarding your child’s development, seek help from a licensed professional right away.  A trained therapist will give you accurate information, ease your worries, and if needed, give your child any help they might need.

Speech & Language Skills Emerging Between 1 and 2 Years

1 – 1½ years

Your child might:

  • easily understand his own speech
  • use a variety of words (between about 3-20) to communicate
  • understand between 50-75 words to communicate
  • be able to point to various objects or body parts as you say them
  • be able to follow simple 1-step directions
  • use words that contain a consonant + vowel (e.g. “bo” for boat)
  • be eager to imitate words they hear others say
  • use some jargon when they’re communicating
  • request things by pointing or vocalizing
  • let you know what they don’t want, by shaking their head “no” or pushing objects away

1½ – 2 years

Your child might:

  • be likely using more true words, and less jargon to communicate
  • be asking questions by using a rising intonation
  • begin to include sounds at the end of their words (e.g. hot)
  • use more than 50 words to communicate
  • understand about 300 words to communicate
  • begin to combine words into simple phrases
  • be able to follow 2-step related directions (e.g. “open the box and give me the bear.”)
  • begin to respond to yes/no questions
  • understand location concepts “in” and “on”
  • begin using words to tell you when they don’t want something (e.g. “no bed”)

For more information about speech and language development in childhood, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/.

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