Speech Milestones


Birth to 5 months

  • coos
  • vocalizes pleasure and displeasure sounds (laughs, giggles, cries, or fusses)
  • makes noise when talked to

6 to 11 months

  • understands "no-no"
  • babbles (says "ba-ba-ba")
  • says ma-ma or da-da without meaning 
  • tries to communicate by actions or gestures
  • tries to repeat your sounds
  • says first word

12 to 17 months

  • answers simple questions nonverbally
  • says two to three words to label a person or object (pronunciation may not be clear)
  • tries to imitate simple words
  • vocabulary of four to six words 18 to 23 months
  • correctly pronounces most vowels and n, m, p, h, especially in the beginning of syllables and short words - also begins to use other speech sounds
  • vocabulary of 50 words, pronunciation is often unclear
  • asks for common foods by name
  • makes animal sounds such as "moo"
  • starting to combine words such as "more milk"
  • begins to use pronouns such as "mine"
  • uses two-word phrases

2 to 3 years

  • knows some spatial concepts such as "in," "on"
  • knows pronouns such as "you," "me," "her"
  • knows descriptive words such as "big," "happy"
  • vocabulary of 250 to 900 words
  • uses three word sentences
  • speech is becoming more accurate but may still leave off ending sounds - strangers may not be able to understand much of what is said
  • answers simple questions
  • begins to use more pronouns such as "you," "I"
  • uses question inflection to ask for something such as "my ball?"
  • begins to use plurals such as "shoes" or "socks" and regular past tense verbs such as "jumped"

3 to 4 years

  • groups objects such as foods, clothes, etc.
  • identifies colors
  • uses most speech sounds but may distort some of the more difficult sounds such as l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th - these sounds may not be fully mastered until age 7 or 8
  • uses consonants in the beginning, middle, and ends of words - some of the more difficult consonants may be distorted, but attempts to say them
  • strangers are able to understand much of what is said
  • able to describe the use of objects such as "fork," "car," etc.
  • has fun with language - enjoys poems and recognizes language absurdities such as, "is that an elephant on your head?"
  • expresses ideas and feelings rather than just talking about the world around him/ her
  • uses verbs that end in "ing," such as "walking" and "talking"
  • answers simple questions such as "What do you do when you are hungry?"
  • repeats sentences

4 to 5 year

• understands spatial concepts such as "behind," "next to"
• understands complex questions
• speech is understandable but makes mistakes pronouncing long, difficult, or complex words such as "hippopotamus"
• vocabulary of about 1500 words
• uses some irregular past tense verbs such as "ran," "fell"
• describes how to do things such as painting a picture
• defines words
• lists items that belong in a category such as animals, vehicles, etc.
• answers "why" questions

5 years

  • understands more than 2,000 words\
  • understands time sequences (what happened first, second, third, etc.)
  • carries out a series of three directions
  • understands rhyming
  • engages in conversation
  • sentences can be eight or more words in length
  • uses compound and complex sentences
  • describes objects
  • uses imagination to create stories