Child Development: Speech and Language

The first 3 years of your child’s life is the most intensive period of speech and language development since the brain is rapidly developing. It’s crucial to their development that they’re exposed them to various sights and sounds in order to stimulate their minds. Parents and preschool teachers have an obligation to provide the tools necessary to ensure growth.


The first 5 years of your child’s life are the foundation for all future development, but each child is unique. Although speech and language progress varies, there’s a natural progression for mastery of these skills.It’s helpful to know these milestones in order to track normal development and identify speech or hearing issues early on.


Birth – 5 Months

Although this period is often overlooked in its importance, the first 5 months is crucial for your child’s speech and language development. Your child should react to loud noises and should start to vocalize in the form of laughter, fussing and of course, cries.

6 – 11 Months

This period is often known as the babbling phase. Your child should begin to mimic sounds, understand your tone and start to make sounds. They will also use hand and body gestures to communicate wants or needs.

12 – 17 Months

As your child develops verbal skills, this is the age when they should generally understand simple commands. They may respond, though it may only be one syllable, or hard to understand. Encourage them to try to repeat after you, rewarding their attempts with praise.

18 – 23 Months

At this age, children should be able to identify body parts (nose, ears, hand). Simple words should be used frequently and pronunciation should be fairly clear. Combining words is also an exciting development during this period. Children at this stage are very receptive to learning 2 languages simultaneously.  If you’ve considered a bilingual program, this is the perfect time to start!

2 – 3 Years

On average, children between 2 and 3 years old know around 50 words. They understand spatial concepts like “inside” and “up”. While it may be difficult for strangers to grasp their pronunciation, you’ve heard it enough to know what they’re saying.

3 – 4 Years

The year between 3 and 4 is a fun one for speech and language. Your child should grasp language enough to understand simple jokes, silly phrases, and rhyming sentences. When you ask more complex questions, they should be able to answer. For example, if you ask your child, “What do you want to do after we go for a walk?”  Your child will answer in a short sentence, such as, “Go to the park.”

4 – 5 Years

By the time your child is 4 or 5, they will have mastered around 300 words and irregular past tense verbs like “fell.” Long words may still be difficult, but they’re getting closer. This is the age when your child will begin to ask the dreaded question, “why?” Their curiosity really opens up at this age!


The above guidelines are general time frames and vary from child to child. If you’re worried that your child’s speech is delayed, consult their pediatrician. They may refer you to a speech pathologist, who can evaluate your child with special speech, language and hearing tests.

Fostering Speech and Language Skills

It’s important to talk, read and play with your child, even if you aren’t sure that they can understand you. As parents, you’ll want to observe and listen to your children as they acquire new communication skills. If your child is attending childcare or preschool, there should be an established curriculum that fosters speech and development skills. Established over countless studies, the importance of your child’s preschool years for language development can’t be overstated.  
Contact Us today to learn more about the value of preschool for your child’s development.