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Normal Speech Development: When should I expect my child to talk?

All children develop speech and language skills at different times. We as speech language pathologists, however, become concerned when children are falling significantly below their age level for both understanding and talking. Here are a few guidelines you can use to see if your children are developing speech and language skills appropriately:

7 months – 1 year:
Hearing & Understanding

  • Enjoys games like peak-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Turns and looks in the direction of sounds
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Recognizes words for common items like “cup”, “shoe”, “juice”
  • Begins to respond to simple requests (“come Here”, “want more”)


  • Babbling with both long and short groups of sounds “tata upup bibibibi”
  • Uses speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep attention
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Has 1 or 2 words (“bye, bye, dada, mama”)

1-2 Years
Hearing & Understanding

  • Points to a few body parts
  • Follows 1-2 step directions and understands simple questions (“Roll the ball, “kiss the baby”, “Go get your shoes”)
  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes
  • Points to pictures in a book when named


  • Says more words every month
  • Uses some 1-2 word questions (“where kitty?”, “go bye-bye”?, “what’s that?”)
  • Put 2 words together (“more cookie”, “no juice”, “mommy book”)
  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words

2-3 Years
Hearing & Understanding

  • Hears when you call from another room
  • Answers simple “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, “why” questions
  • Follows 2-3 step directions


  • Has a word for almost everything
  • Uses 2-3 words to talk about and ask for things
  • Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time
  • Often asks for or directs attention to objects by naming them

3-4 Years
Hearing & Understanding

  • understands differences in meaning (“go-stop”, “in-on”, “big-little”, “up-down”)
  • Follows 2 requests (“Get the book and put it on the table”)
  • understands action words (“jump, run, wash”) and descriptive words (“big, wet, little”)


  • Talks about activities completed earlier such as from school or a friends home
  • People outside the family understands the child’s speech
  • Uses a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words
  • Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words

4-5 Years
Hearing & Understanding

  • Pays attention to short stories and answers simple questions about it
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school
  • Understands spatial concepts (under, in back of, next to, in front of)
  • Makes inferences (“what will happen if.”) from pictures and stories
  • Understands and can produce rhyming words
  • Can clap out multi-syllable words


  • Voice sounds clear like other children’s
  • Uses sentences that give lots of details (“I like to read my books”)
  • Tells stories that stick to topic
  • Communicates easily with other children and adults
  • Says most sounds correctly
  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family

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