Ages and Stages – Language Development Milestones

Babies, toddlers and children all go through various stages when it come to learning language.   Here is a list of things you can look for with your own child(ren).   Please remember that these are averages.  However, if you have any concern with regards to your child’s language development please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.  You can go to the Resources page for more information.

Language Development: Milestones


Birth to 6 Month

  • turns to source of soundages and stages for language development milestones
  • startles in response to loud and sudden noises
  • watches speakers face
  • smiles and laughs in response to speakers smiles and laughs
  • imitates coughs or other early vocalizations (e.g. ah, eh, buh)

6 to 12 Months

  • responds to name
  • responds to common sounds (e.g. phone ringing,  doorbell)
  • understands being told “no”
  • gets basic needs met through gesturing (e.g. lifting arms up to be picked up)
  • plays social games (e.g. peek-a-boo)
  • babbles and repeats sounds (e.g. babababa, duhduhduh)
  • follows simple one step directions (e.g. sit down) – this happens closer to 12 months
  • looks across room to something being pointed at
  • uses 2-3 words (not necessarily clear) – by approximately 12 months
  • uses some gestures socially (e.g. waving “bye”, shaking head “no”, blowing a kiss)
  • gets caregivers attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while making eye contact
  • brings toys to show you
  • “performs” for attention and praise
  • By 12 months combines variety of sounds to sound like “talking” (e.g. abada duhba abee)
  • shows interest in simple picture books

12 to 18 Months

  • understands basic concepts “in” and “out”, “off” and “on”
  • points to several body parts when asked (e.g. nose, eyes, ears, mouth, hair, hands, feet, belly)
  • uses approximately 20 words (around 18 months)
  • responds to simple questions with words and/or gestures (e.g. “where is the ball?” “what’s that?”)
  • demonstrates simple pretend play (e.g. gives doll a drink, feeds bear)
  • makes at least 4 different consonant sounds (e.g. b, p, m, n, d, w, h)
  • enjoys being read to and looks through simple books with caregiver
  • points to pictures using one finger

18 to 24 Months

  • follows two-step directions (e.g. “go find the ball and bring it to dad”)
  • uses at least 2 pronouns (e.g. mine, me, you, my)
  • uses 100+ words (by 24 months)
  • consistently combines words into 2 or more word phrases (e.g. “daddy shoe”, “car go up”)
  • enjoys being with others
  • begins offering toys to peers and imitates peers actions/words
  • holds books right way up and turns pages
  • pretends to “read”
  • unfamiliar listeners can understand approximately 50-60% of child’s words

24 to 36 Months

  • Understands differences in meaning (e.g. “go-stop”, “in-on”, “big-little”)
  • Enjoys listening to books for longer periods of time
  • Has a word for almost everything in their environment
  • Speech becomes clearer (by age 3, 75% of speech should be understood by an unfamiliar listener)
  • Asks “why”
  • By 36 months language contains grammar (not always correct) and sentences take on a more “adult” form.

3 to 4 Years

  • Hears when you call them from another room
  • Listens to TV/Radio at same loudness level as others
  • Recognizes 2-3 colors (e.g. red, blue, green)
  • Recognizes a few basic shapes (e.g. square, circle, triangle)
  • Tells small stories using approximately 4 sentences
  • Unfamiliar listeners understand approximately 90% of child’s speech (by age 4)
  • Answers simple questions (e.g. “who is coming over?”, “where is the ball?”, “what is that?”)
  • Asks “when” and “how”
  • Starts making basic rhymes (e.g. “hat-cat”, “mitt-sit”)
  • Uses more pronouns including “I, you, me, we and they”
  • Uses some simple plurals (e.g. birds, shoes, trees)
  • Majority of sentences contain 4+ words

I definitely haven’t covered everything here, but this should give you a general idea about the stages infants, toddlers and children go through with regards to language development.  I also haven’t covered the stages beyond the age of 4.  There is a wealth of information online if you are looking for language development after the age of 4.



  1. Sarah

    Hi – thanks for this. I read the article you recommended on ear tubes with interest. I hope that is not the case but I certainly want my daughter to develop to her potential and would hate a hearing loss to hold her back.

    She has had a couple of ear infections so if her language doesn’t develop, I will definitely get that checked at our next appointment.

    Hopefully like you say, that is not necessary and her babbling will turn into words soon enough!

    No there isn’t a second language in the house – although I wanted to ask, regardless of that, when IS the best time to introduce a child to a second language if you want them to be bilingual – and as fluent as possible. And does it need to come from the parents knowledge of the language or can parents who are not completely fluent in a second language still help that process?

    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Sarah,

      It is good for parents to have as much information as possible regarding child developmental milestones so that they can be proactive where their kids are concerned. However, at the same time you don’t want this information to overwhelm you and make you worry about everything. Just keep talking to your daughter and exposing her to new words and experiences. And if you continue to be concerned then absolutely have her assessed. I always say it is better to have a child assessed then to wait it out.

      As for a second language, this can be introduced at any time. Bilingual families start speaking two languages to their children right from birth. It does get harder for a child to learn a second language as they get older but it’s not impossible. Adults learn additional languages all the time, however it will take more time and effort to do so. If the language you plan to teach your child is not your native language then it could also take longer.

      The only time I would not recommend teaching an additional language to a child (especially if this language is not native to either parent) is if the child is struggling in their primary language.

      I hope this all makes sense. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. Sarah

    I have a (nearly) 14 month old daughter who is very advanced according to these milestones you give here – particularly relating to her physical development. She was crawling at four months, pulled herself up on furniture 2 weeks later, and cruising furniture by 5 months, then she walked around the 8 month mark. She is running, dancing etc.

    Language, however, is different. She understands well – I know from her reactions and responses to us. So I can tell her to go and get the ball or to hold mummy’s hand and she will understand (because she does it!) but she is spending a lot of time screaming or making noises which sound frustrated rather than speaking specific words. She does make sounds but for example she makes a noise like “doy” which I take to mean “look” because she says it as she points at something or someone and she seems to be getting close to “mummy” and “daddy” but only just! Is this normal at her age and is there something I can be doing to help her develop those language skills?

    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thank you for your comment. As I stated in the the “About” section, I can’t really give advice about your daughter’s language development since I am no longer a registered speech therapist, but hopefully I can help you out somewhat.

      Since your daughter is excelling on the physical side of development I can see why her language may be a bit behind. Children usually focus on one thing over another. This is why some boys tend to speak later than girls. They focus on the physical while girls tend to be more verbal. But it is not always this way, as is the case with your daughter.

      The fact that she understands you and is able to follow directions is a good sign. It also appears as if she is starting to try and say some words. I would keep labeling objects she knows as well as introducing new ones. You will sound like a broken record (to yourself) but it will benefit your daughter. Are you speaking more than one language at home? If so, this can contribute to a slight speech delay while she tries to figure out multiple languages.

      If by 18 months she does not have between 20-30 words, I would suggest you have her evaluated by a speech therapist. The speech therapist may suggest your have her hearing checked as well. I would always recommend this. If you haven’t had a chance to read it might give you some good information about how to tell if your child may have issues with hearing.

      I see that you have commented on a few other posts, so I will answer some more of your questions in response to those comments.

  3. Heather

    What a brilliant site! Especially for new mothers. Love what you are doing here

    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thank you! I am glad that you are finding the information helpful. Please make sure to share it with any other parents of young children you know!


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