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Normal Speech and Language Development

Use this as a guide, as children learn to communicate at different rates. Please see your GP or Early Childhood Nurse if concerned.

0-3 Months

Responds to loud voices and sounds, e.g. door slam, phone.

Develops eye contact skills (looking at a face or following a moving object with their eyes).

Has different cries to let you know about pain, hunger, tiredness.

Begins to coo, e.g. “ah ah, ooh ooh”, and gurgles.

Smiles when you talk to them (4-6 weeks).

Develops turn taking skills, e.g. may copy you when you make a sound.

3-6 Months

Turns their head to a range of noises or sounds, e.g. someone walking through the door.

At 3 months – coos more and uses more grunts and gurgles.

Smiles more and laughs during play.

6-9 Months

At 6 months – starts to babble e.g. “da da”, “ba ba”, “ada”.

Turns when their name is called and understands when you say “no”.

Copies simple actions, e.g. waving goodbye, clapping.

Uses more babbling and sounds together, e.g. “mamama”, “dadada”. • Uses more gestures, e.g. shaking their head to say “no”.

9-12 Months

Understands simple questions, e.g. “Where’s daddy?”

Follows simple directions with help, e.g. “Give ball to mummy”.

Uses many different speech sounds together, e.g. “brmm brmm”, “dabadabadaba”.

Begins to point and makes sounds to indicate needs and wants.

12-18 Months

Knows at least one body part, e.g. nose.

Understands many words, simple directions and yes/no questions, e.g. “Do you want a drink?”.

Begins to use single words (about 12 to 20).

Copies noises, e.g. animal or transport noises.

18-24 months

Knows more body parts.

Understands longer instructions, e.g. “Pick up the car…give it to daddy”

Uses 25 to 50 single words.

Starts to put 2 words together, e.g. “daddy car”, “mummy juice”, “go train”.

2 Years

Uses between 50 and 200 words regularly .

Starts to put more 2-3 word phrases together e.g. “more juice”, “daddy go car”, “mummy up”.

Answers simple questions such as “What’s that?”, “Where is doggy?”.

Follows simple instructions with two key words, e.g. “put the apple in the bag”.

3 Years

Understands different words, e.g. place words e.g. “in”, “on”, “under”.

Identifies objects by their use, colour or shape, e.g. “What colour is the big ball?”.

Uses 3 to 5 words in a sentence, e.g. “dolly go sleep now”.

Asks questions, e.g. “What?”, “Who?”, “Where?”.

Uses clear speech about 75% of the time (sounds are still developing).

Uses more grammatical structures, though not all sentences are correct, such as: o “-ing” (present tense), e.g. “Mummy walking”.

Uses plurals (more than one), e.g. “two balls”.

4 Years

Uses a lot of words (about 900), with around 4 or more words in a sentence.

Understands “time” concepts, e.g. yesterday; winter; last week.

Only has occasional grammatical errors, but generally uses correct grammar.

Can be understood most of the time – has learnt most speech sounds.

5 Years

Can follow directions with 3 parts, e.g. “stand up, put on your shoes and go to the car”.

Uses sentences of around 6 or more words with correct grammar.

Talks about past, current and future events, e.g. “We’re going to the park tomorrow!”.

Understands many types of concepts, e.g. wet, dry, big, little, slow, fast. Talks about feelings and tells you their ideas, e.g. “I’m sad – Jack wouldn’t play with me”. Is understood by familiar people and strangers.