Speech and Language



Children develop at their own rate. This information tells you when most children who speak only one language will reach each milestone. Your child should master the skills listed by the time they reach the top of the age range. Missing one skill in the age range does not mean they have a problem. You may want to seek help if you answer "no" to most of the skills.

Typical Sound Development

Your child may substitute one sound for another, leave sounds out, add sounds, or change a sound. It can be hard for others to understand him.

It is normal for young children to say the wrong sounds sometimes. For example, your child may make a "w" sound for an "r" and say "wabbit" for "rabbit." They may leave sounds out of words, such as "nana" for "banana." This is okay when they are young. It may be a problem if theykeep making these mistakes as they get older.

You and your child may also sound different because you have an accent or dialect. This is not a speech sound disorder.

The information below shows the ages when most English-speaking children develop sounds. Children learning more than one language may develop some sounds earlier or later.

By 1 Year of Age: Babbles longer strings of sounds like mimi, upup, bababa

By 3 Years of Age: Says m, n, h, w, p, b, t, d, k, g, and f in words and familiar people are able to understand the child's speech.

By 4 Years of Age: Says y and v in words. May still make mistakes on the s, sh, ch, j, ng, th, z, l, and r sounds, but most people are able to understand the child’s speech.

Typical Receptive Language Development

By 1-2 Years of Age:

  • Points to a few body parts when you ask.

  • Follows 1-part directions, like "Roll the ball" or "Kiss the baby."

  • Responds to simple questions, like “Who’s that?” or “Where’s your shoe?”

  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.

  • Points to pictures in a book when you name them.

By 2-3 Years of Age:

  • Understands opposites, like go–stop, big–little, and up–down.

  • Follows 2-part directions, like "Get the spoon and put it on the table."

  • Understands new words quickly.

By 3-4 Years of Age:

  • Responds when you call from another room.

  • Understands words for some colors, like red, blue, and green.

  • Understands words for some shapes, like circle and square.

  • Understands words for family, like brother, grandmother, and aunt.

By 4-5 Years of Age:

  • Understands words for order, like first, next, and last.

  • Understands words for time, like yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

  • Follows longer directions, like “Put your pajamas on, brush your teeth, and then pick out a book.”

  • Follows classroom directions, like “Draw a circle on your paper around something you eat.”

  • Hears and understands most of what she hears at home and in school.