Watch Your Child’s Speech & Language Grow

From the time they are born, children start communicating. Very early in their lives, they learn to understand what you are saying and to make sounds of their own. They are beginning to develop speech and language skills that will help them make friends and learn to read, and later, to succeed at school and in life. Communication skills are critical to your child’s future.

About one in 10 children needs help developing normal speech and language skills. Without this help it’s a struggle to listen and talk, it’s difficult to learn to read and it’s hard to play with other children.

Here are some suggestions parents and caregivers can do with children.

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 – McDonalds golden arches, stop sign
  • Remembers and understands familiar stories

By Three Years


  • Understands “who”, “what”, “where” and “why” questions
  • Creates long sentences, using 5 to 8 words
  • Talks about past events – trip to grandparents’ house, day at childcare
  • Tells simple stories
  • Shows affection for favourite playmates
  • Engages in multi-step pretend play – cooking a meal, repairing a car
  • Is understood by most people outside of the family, most of the time
  • Is aware of the function of print – in menus, lists, signs
  • Has a beginning interest in, and awareness of, rhyming

By Four Years


  • Follows some directions involving 3 or more steps – “First get some paper, then draw a picture, last give it to mom”
  • Uses adult-type grammar
  • Tells stories with a clear beginning, middle and end
  • Talks to try to solve problems with adults and other children
  • Demonstrates increasingly complex imaginative play
  • Is understood by strangers almost all of the time
  • Is able to generate simple rhymes – “cat-bat”
  • Matches some letters with their sounds – “letter T says tuh”

By Five Years


  • Follows group directions – ‘All the boys get a toy”
  • Understands directions involving “if … then” – “If you’re wearing runners, then line up for gym”
  • Describes past, present and future events in detail
  • Seeks to please his/her friends
  • Shows increasing independence in friendships – may visit neighbour by him/herself
  • Uses almost all of the sounds of their language with few to no errors
  • Knows all the letters of the alphabet
  • Identifies the sounds at the beginning of some words – “Pop starts with the ‘puh’ sound”

Contrast & Text Size

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Translate this website