Early Language Development

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Children achieve language milestones at different ages. They begin slowly, in infancy by becoming familiar with spoken language and learning to understand small parts of what is said. With time, they build on these skills and by five years of age are usually capable of producing and understanding quite complex language. The below information outlines various language skills, and the ages at which most children achieve them.

Between 0 – 6 months, most children:

  • Begin to turn towards the sound of speech and recognise familiar voices.
  • Become receptive to changes in the tone of voice of a speaker

Between 6 – 12 months, most children:

  • Begin babbling and engaging in vocal play (e.g. ‘ma-ma-ma-ma’)
  • Use vocalisations to obtain attention
  • Recognise and respond to their name
  • Understand some simple, familiar words (e.g. ‘mum’, ‘dad’, ‘no, ‘ball’) and requests (e.g. ‘give to mummy’)

Between 1 – 2 years, most children:

  • Say their first word
  • Develop a vocabulary of at least 50 words by 24 months
  • Imitate simple words
  • Identify some body parts
  • Begin to use two words together (e.g. ‘more juice’)

Between 2 – 3 years, most children:

  • Understand two-step instructions (e.g. ‘get the ball and put it in the basket’)
  • Begin to understand concepts like ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘big’, ‘small’ etc.
  • Experience a rapid expansion in their vocabulary and are able to name most familiar items and objects
  • Start to use 3 and more word sentences for a range of communicative functions (e.g. requesting something, protesting, showing something, asking a question)

Between 3 – 4 years, most children:

  • Understand a lot of what is said to them
  • Produce long sentences that are close to adult forms
  • Are able to be understood by familiar and unfamiliar people without much difficulty

Between 4 – 5 years, most children:

  • Understand and enjoy short stories, and are able to answer simple questions about their content
  • Can produce lengthy and highly detailed sentences, and build stories (about both real and imagined events)


If you have questions or concerns about your child’s language development, or would like to make an appointment for an assessment or therapy, contact our Speech Pathologists today.