Chicago Speech Therapy: What Are Common Speech Development Milestones?

It is very natural as a parent to be concerned about your child’s speech development, especially since children often experience various speech abnormalities as a course of learning language. How do you know if your child is developing normally? Is it typical for a child to be experiencing a certain speech “errors” beyond a certain age?

It’s good to know what to expect in your child’s speech at different ages, both to calm your own concerns and so that, if your child is experiencing a speech acquisition abnormality, you would be able to seek professional help in a timely manner. Below are some of the speech “milestones” you can look for in your child’s speech.

0-1 Years

  • Recognizes own name
  • Says 2-3 words with meaning besides “mama” and “dada”
  • Imitates familiar words
  • Can understand simple instructions
  • Recognizes words as symbol for objects (hears car and can point to garage)

1-2 Years

  • Understands “no”
  • Uses 5-20 words, including names
  • Combines two words, such as “daddy bye-bye”
  • Able to use two or more prepositions such as “in” or “on”
  • Can make short sentences, mostly noun-verb combinations
  • Gives a specific toy when asked to
  • Uses words such as “more” to make wants known
  • Approximately 2/3 of speech is intelligible
  • Responds to commands such as “show me your toes.”
  • Has begun using “my” and “mine”

2-3 Years

  • Identifies body parts
  • Carries on a “conversation” with self and dolls/toys
  • Asks “what’s that?” and “where’s my…?”
  • Uses two- word negative phrases such as “no want”
  • Forms some plurals by adding “s”
  • Has a 450 word vocabulary
  • Gives first name, holds up fingers to tell age
  • Verbs are used with increasing frequency
  • Understands simple time concepts such as “last night”
  • Able to appropriately respond to questions such as “what must you do when you get thirsty?”
  • Names objects that are common
  • Much repetition of phrases, syllables, and words
  • Uses short sentences like “me want more”
  • Solves problems by talking instead of hitting or crying

3-4 Years

  • Can tell a story
  • Has a sentence length of 4-5 words
  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1000 words
  • Names at least one color
  • Begins to obey complex requests like “put the block under the chair”

4-5 Years

  • Uses many descriptive words, both adjectives and adverbs
  • Has sentence length of 4-5 words
  • Speech is completely intelligible
  • Able to give a definition for common objects
  • Simple conception of time such as morning, afternoon and later
  • Uses past tense correctly
  • Can speak of imaginary conditions such as “I hope”
  • Asks many questions such as “who?” and “why?”

5-6 Years

  • Can make sentences with a length of 5-6 words
  • Defines objects by their use (you eat with a fork)
  • Knows simple spatial relations like “on top” or “behind”
  • Understands common opposites like big/little
  • Uses all types of sentences, like “let’s go to the store after we eat”
  • Should be able to tell a fairly long story when shown a picture and asked about it

After reading through these, it’s good to remember that all children are different and that these are just rough guidelines. Development has a fairly flexible time range of normalcy. However, if it does seem that your child has missed some or many of these milestones contacting a speech-language pathologist for a language evaluation is definitely a good course of action.

Sources for this list were obtained from the Child Development Institute and LD Online.