Speech and Language Milestones

Here are some of the milestones that mark the progress of young children as they learn to communicate, as well as some suggestions to help your child use words to solve problems, make choices, describe objects and events and share ideas.

By Six Months


  • Turns to source of sounds
  • Startles in response to sudden, loud noises
  • Makes different cries for different needs – I’m hungry, I’m tired
  • Watches your face as you talk
  • Smiles and laughs in response to your smiles and laughs
  • Imitates coughs or other sounds – ah, eh, buh

By Nine Months


  • Responds to his/her name
  • Responds to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door
  • Understands being told “no”
  • Gets what he/she wants through gestures e.g., reaching to be picked up
  • Plays social games with you e.g., peek-a-boo
  • Enjoys being around people
  • Babbles and repeats sounds – babababa, duhduhduh

By Twelve Months


  • Follows simple one-step directions – “sit down”
  • Looks across the room to something you point to
  • Consistently uses three to five words
  • Uses gestures to communicate – waves “bye bye”, shakes head “no”
  • Gets your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes
  • Brings you toys to show you
  • “Performs” for attention and praise
  • Combines lots of sounds as though talking – abada baduh abee
  • Shows interest in simple picture books

By Eighteen Months


  • Understands the concepts of “in and out”, “off and on”
  • Points to several body parts when asked
  • Uses at least 20 words consistently
  • Responds with words or gestures to simple questions – “Where’s teddy?”, “What’s that?”
  • Demonstrates some pretend play with toys – gives teddy a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat
  • Makes at least four different consonant sounds – p, b, m, n, d, g, w, h
  • Enjoys being read to and looking at simple books with you
  • Points to pictures using one finger

By Twenty-four Months


  • Follows two-step directions – “Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma”
  • Uses 100 to 150 words
  • Uses at least two pronouns – “you”, “me”, “mine”
  • Consistently combines two to four words in short phrases – “daddy hat”, “truck go down”
  • Enjoys being with other children
  • Begins to offer toys to peers and imitates other children’s actions and words
  • People can understand his/her words 50 to 60 per cent of the time
  • Forms words and sounds easily and effortlessly
  • Holds books the right way up and turns pages
  • “Reads” to stuffed animals or toys
  • Scribbles with crayons

By Thirty Months


  • Understands the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little, a lot, more)
  • Uses some adult grammar – “two cookies”, “bird flying”, “I jumped”
  • Uses more than 350 words
  • Uses action words – run, spill, fall
  • Begins taking short turns with other children, using both toys and words
  • Shows concern when another child is hurt or sad
  • Combines several actions in play – feeds doll then puts her to sleep; puts blocks in train then drives train and drops blocks off
  • Puts sounds at the start of most words
  • Produces words with two or more syllables or beats – “ba-na-na”, “com-pu-ter”, “a-pple”
  • Recognizes familiar logos and signs – McDonald’s golden arches, stop sign
  • Remembers and understands familiar stories

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