Language Development

Language development starts at birth and continues for the rest of our lives. 

Below is a checklist of language skills from birth to 5 years of age. It touches on what a child should be able to understand and say by a certain age.

Of course, all children are different and this is just a guideline. If you are concerned about your child, please contact a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation.

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

Language Development Checklist!

Birth to 6 Months


  • Smiles
  • Coos
  • Babbles (i.e., “baba” or “gaga”)
  • Makes sounds when playing or when excited
  • Likes toys that play music or make sounds
  • Explores objects with mouth

6-12 Months


  • Responds to name
  • Looks at you when you are talking
  • Still uses mouth to explore objects
  • Waves “hi” or “bye”
  • May have a first word
  • Uses vocalizations to get attention instead of crying
  • Babbles while playing
  • Babbling becomes more elaborate with different sound combinations
  • Recognizes familiar objects, “dog” or “book”

1- 1 1/2 Years


  • Uses 3-20 words consistently
  • Imitates words
  • Points to some body parts
  • Follows simple directions
  • Understands “no”
  • Points to pictures in books

1 1/2 -2 Years


  • 60% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners
  • Understands about 300 words
  • Uses about 50-300 words
  • Vocabulary increases each month
  • Speaks with 2 word phrases, “more milk”
  • Asks simple, two word questions, “where’s mommy?”
  • Gives a toy when prompted

2-3 Years


  • 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener
  • Understands about 500 words
  • Uses about 1000 words consistently
  • Speak with 3+ word phrases
  • Uses articles “a” and “the”
  • Uses present progressive, -ing, “running”
  • Follows 2 step directions, “get your shoes and put them on”
  • Uses negative words, “no cookie”
  • Time concepts emerging, “tomorrow”
  • Uses words to get attention, “watch this”
  • Knows simple concepts “big,” “little,” “in,” “out"

3-4 Years


  • 80% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener
  • Uses about 500 words
  • Understands 900 words
  • Speaks with 4+ word phrases
  • Knows colors
  • Answers age-appropriate yes/no questions
  • Uses regular past tense (i.e., “he jumped”) verbs
  • Uses possessive -s, (i.e., “mommy’s keys”)
  • Answers simple “wh” questions (i.e., “what” “where” “what...doing”)
  • Talks about events of the day with a simple story structure
  • Recognizes songs and can sing them

4-5 Years


  • 100% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners
  • Speaks with 5+ word sentences
  • Knows simple shapes (i.e., square or circle)
  • Answers “who” and “why” questions
  • Answers questions about short stories, 3-4 sentences
  • Sentences now have details
  • Improved conversational skills, can stay on topic
  • Rhymes
  • Knows a few letters and numbers

Printable Language Development Checklists!

Click here for printable speech/language milestone checklists: Printable Checklists

Remember, every child is an individual and one child’s language development may look different when compared to another. If you have concerns, please reach out to a speech-language pathologist or write us a note. We are happy to help guide you!

Developmental Milestone Activities:

If you are interested in specific speech and language games designed to target each developmental milestone, please visit our members section. You will have access to functional ideas you can weave into your daily life that will help your child build strong speech and language skills.

› Language Development


Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series


References

  1. Speech and Language Milestone Chart by PRO-ED inc, 1999.. Retrieved online on June 12, 2013 at http://www.ldonline.org/article/6313
  2. Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). How Does Your Child Hear and Talk? Retrieved on June 12, 2013 at http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart.htm