Do you know where your child is at with Language Development?

Language Development: What to Expect at Different Ages

Language Milestones – Part 2 Series

Other parts in our Language
Development Series:

  • Speech versus Language
  • Signs and symptoms of receptive
    versus expressive language
  • Late bloomer or language delay?
  • Early language intervention

As you hear little “Johnny” crying from across the room, you are probably thinking to yourself, “is he hungry? Is he in pain? Does he need to be held?” In an instant, just as soon as the thought enters your mind, you see his mother appear out of nowhere magically producing a bottle declaring “he’s just hungry.” First-time parents or visitors without kids probably have this moment of panic when babies start crying, but for those parents who are already veterans, it is completely normal to understand what their child wants just by hearing their cry. No, it’s not that mothers are telepathic, although sometimes we wish we were, but it’s an early development stage of how infants communicate with their parents.

What Stage of Language Development is your Child at?

It’s mind-blowing to think that so early in life language is already forming and developing as our children discover ways to communicate with us through their cries, cooing, babbling and eventually saying their first words. From the time children are born to around six years old, this is the time when children develop their speech and language skills and continue to perfect it as they get older.

So often do I get parents asking me why their child can’t form words and sentences and what that might mean once they reach the school-age years and are falling behind their classmates who seem to be miles ahead of their child. First thing I tell them, don’t panic! Language development doesn’t always come at the exact time your handy development chart says it does. It is merely a guideline, not gospel. The reality is, it just isn’t possible for every child. However, having said that, don’t wait too long to help your child if it becomes a real problem. Those development years are KEY to correcting speech and language issues while the brain is still forming.

How to tell if your Child is on the right path for Language Development.

Just remember:

  • Language = Ways children and adults express themselves through words, writing, signing or other gestures
  • Speech = Pitch, loudness and quality of your child’s speech when using the muscles of the lips, tongue and jaw

Complicated? Yes, but still important as your child grows older. For the purpose of this article, we are only going to focus on the development stages of language and focus on speech another time.

Signs of Language Development

If you want to know the best way to start recognizing signs of your child developing language early on, there are some things to watch for you as your child grows older (even if they are over the age of six). Since it usually happens naturally, you may not even notice or recognize the ways language is formed in your child over time.

The Wheels are Turning

When I was a new mother and would talk to my daughter, you could just see the wheels turning in her head as she laughed, smiled and responded to everything I said. Even if your child is delayed or too young to talk, a great way to tell if they are developing their language is if you can tell they understand and process what you say to them. Children who have language delays, but still show signs of recognition, tend to be late bloomers, but can eventually catch-up once the language comes.

Body Language

It’s all about gestures. If your child motions to what they want or takes you by the hand to show you what they need, this is a good sign they are trying to develop the language they need to eventually describe what they want. The more body language your child makes, the more likely language is ready to roll. Unfortunately, this could also be a stage parents hate. The reason? If kids are delayed in talking or can’t seem to say what they are thinking and feeling, this is where the tantrums come in. It’s not that they are trying to be “bad kids,” they are simply frustrated that they can’t tell you what they want. This is what is called receptive and expressive language that we will discuss in our next article in our language series.

How to tell if your Child is on the right path for Language Development.

Ready, Set, Onward we Go

There are no words to describe every parent’s joy and excitement as they hear their child say their first word. It’s a thrilling experience! During this exciting time, your child is probably starting to express themselves in one or two words. As they mature and grow older, they will expand their language by adding more words, phrases and eventually sentences. If your child is older and they are still only saying one or two words at a time or aren’t developing conversations with you, it could be a sign they are delayed in their language ability. Researchers have said kids around 2 years old who have not yet developed at least 50 words in their vocabulary could be at risk of delays.

Baby Babble

Babble away is what I say! This is definitely important in a child’s language development. It eventually leads to a child’s vocabulary. If your child is older with language delays and didn’t babble a lot as an infant, it could be a reason why they struggle with words and expression.


Remember when you were young and your younger sibling would copy everything you did and said? So annoying right? Well, turns out, children who imitate other children or even you as a parent are actually learning from you. By practicing new words and imitating your movements and actions, they develop their language and vocabulary more quickly.

Play Dates

As a person who isn’t overly social myself, it was always much easier to send my kids to their friends house rather than me coordinating play dates, but I have found them to be incredibly valuable for both you and your children. This not only gives your child an opportunity to communicate and interact with other kids, it also allows you to ask other parents about their child’s development stages to see where your child may fall in the spectrum. It’s a great way to capture warning signs. On play dates, observe your child. Do they prefer to play with adults or other children? Sometimes preferring adults over their peers could mean they have trouble expressing themselves with others their own age.

Do you know where your child is at with Language Development?

Development Stages

As you begin to understand all the ins and outs of language development, you can now begin to look at your child reaching their milestones. Here is a great chart to use as a guide. However, remember if your child isn’t meeting these milestones exactly within this timeline, don’t automatically think there is something wrong. Many kids develop on their own timeline. It’s important not to rush them into something they aren’t ready for, but, having said that, if you come to a point where you foresee a genuine problem, try not to overlook the possibility of needing some extra help or intervention.

3-12 Months
  • Coos and laughs
  • Babbles
  • Recognizes mother’s voice
  • Grunts, chuckles, gurgles
  • Responds to changes in voice
  • Cries differently for pain or hunger
  • Mimics sounds and gestures
  • Responds to their name
12-18 Months
  • Uses one-word utterances
  • Recognizes names
  • Laughs appropriately
  • Uses partial words
  • Asks for help with gestures and sounds
  • Uses complete words
  • Imitates
  • Usually knows around 50 words by 18 months
18 Months to 2 Years
  • Knows around 300 words
  • Starts to put words together
  • Understands what is said to him/her
  • Follows two-step directions
  • Hums and sings
  • Expresses pain verbally
  • Speaks names of foods, animals, toys, family members
  • Is somewhat understood by outsiders
2-3 Years
  • Speaks in longer and more complex sentences
  • Uses a variety of speech sounds
  • Repeats rhymes, songs, stories
  • Can answer “what” questions
  • Knows most words
3-5 Years
  • Understands most of what they hear
  • Can have a conversation
  • Vocabulary growth
  • Talks without repeating words
  • Asks questions
  • Tells stories that stay on topic
  • Knows basic rules of grammar
  • Uses six to eight word sentences
  • Answers questions about stories
5-6 Years
  • Can follow three consecutive instructions
  • Talks constantly
  • Asks several questions
  • Uses more words to describe objects
  • Knows vowels and consonants
  • Uses correct grammar

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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