The first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills. These skills develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others.

There appear to be critical periods for speech and language development in infants and young children when the brain is best able to absorb language. If these critical periods are allowed to pass without exposure to language, it will be more difficult to learn.

This information below represents the age by which most monolingual speaking children will accomplish the listed milestones. Children typically do not master all items in an age-group until they are well into the upper age in each range.

  • Reacts to loud sounds
  • Calms down or smiles when spoken to
  • Recognizes your voice and calms down if crying
  • When feeding, starts or stops sucking in response to sound
  • Coos and makes pleasure sounds
  • Has a special way of crying for different needs
  • Smiles when he or she sees you
  • Follows sounds with his or her eyes
  • Responds to changes in the tone of your voice
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Pays attention to music
  • Babbles in a speech-like way and uses many different sounds, including sounds that begin with p, b, and m
  • Laughs
  • Babbles when excited or unhappy
  • Makes gurgling sounds when alone or playing with you
  • Enjoys playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Turns and looks in the direction of sounds
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Understands words for common items such as “cup,” “shoe,” or “juice”
  • Responds to requests (“Come here” or “Want more?”)
  • Babbles using long and short groups of sounds (“tata, upup, bibibi”)
  • Babbles to get and keep attention
  • Communicates using gestures such as waving or holding up arms
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Has one or two words (“Hi,” “dog,” “Dada,” or “Mama”) by first birthday
  • Knows a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked
  • Follows simple commands (“Roll the ball”) and understands simple questions (“Where’s your shoe?”)
  • Enjoys simple stories, songs, and rhymes
  • Points to pictures, when named, in books
  • Acquires new words on a regular basis
  • Uses some one- or two-word questions (“Where kitty?” or “Go bye-bye?”)
  • Puts two words together (“More cookie” or “No juice”)
  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words
  • Has a word for almost everything
  • Uses two- or three-word phrases to talk about and ask for things
  • Uses /k, g, f, t, d, and n/ sounds
  • Speaks in a way that is understood by family members and friends
  • Names objects to ask for them or to direct attention to them
  • Hears you when you call from another room
  • Hears the television or radio at the same sound level as other family members
  • Answers simple “Who?” “What?” “Where?” and “Why?” questions
  • Talks about activities at daycare, preschool, or friends’ homes
  • Uses sentences with four or more words
  • Speaks easily without having to repeat syllables or words
  • Pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about them
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school
  • Uses sentences that give lots of details (“The biggest peach is mine.”)
  • Tells stories that stick to topic
  • Communicates easily with other children and adults
  • Says most sounds correctly
  • Says rhyming words
  • Names some letters and numbers
  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family

Based on How Does Your Child Hear and Talk? courtesy of the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association

If you have concerns about your child’s communication, we’ve made screeners immediately available for you:

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION