Babies communicate through sounds, eye gaze, body movement, crying and smiling. As they grow, they learn to understand language by listening to and watching others. Through back-and-forth interactions and play with others, your child expands her ability to express herself using gestures, sounds, and then words. Your toddler’s expressive communication skills develop gradually into speech, as he learns to make specific sounds and sound combinations by imitating the speech and language of those around him.

Speech and Language Skills at 2 months

  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds
  • Turns head toward sounds

Speech and Language Skills at 4 months

  • Begins to babble
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

Speech and Language Skills at 6 months

  • Responds to sounds by making sounds
  • Strings vowels together when babbling ("ah," "eh," "oh") and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds
  • Responds to own name
  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure
  • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with "m," "b")

Speech and Language Skills at 9 months

  • Understands "no"
  • Makes a lot of different sounds like "mamamama" and "bababababa"
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others
  • Uses fingers to point at things

Speech and Language Skills at 12 months

  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head "no" or waving "bye-bye"
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
  • Says "mama" and "dada" and exclamations like "uh-oh!"
  • Tries to say words you say

Speech and Language Skills at 18 months

  • Says several single words
  • Says and shakes head "no"
  • Points to show someone what he wants

Speech and Language Skills at 2 years

  • Points to things or pictures when they are named
  • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Points to things in a book

Speech and Language Skills at 3 years

  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like "in," "on," and "under"
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like "I," "me," "we," and "you" and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences

Speech and Language Skills at 4 years

  • Understands some basic rules of grammar
  • Uses 5 to 6 word sentences
  • Tell short stories
  • Strangers can understand what child is saying
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory
  • Can say first and last name

Speech and Language Skills at 5 years

  • Uses phrases of more than 5 words
  • Uses future tense
  • Tells longer stories using full sentences
  • Speaks very clearly
  • Uses future tense
  • Says name and address