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20 Key Language Milestones

Learn key language milestones for kids from birth to age 6.
 

Learning Benefits

It's amazing how quickly those babbles and coos turn into "Why?" and "No!" Here's what to expect when.

From birth to 12 months, your child may:

  • make eye contact and smile
  • babble and coo to communicate comfort or happiness
  • move arms and legs to express joy, excitement, or anger
  • repeat babbles, such as "da da" or "ma ma"
  • by 8 to 12 months: understand directions, such as putting a hat on his head when told to do so; say his first words

From 1 to 2 years, your child may:

  • use sounds and utterances with adult intonation
  • begin to combine words
  • engage in telegraphic speech — one- or two-word combinations, such as "Daddy come," "I fall," or "All gone"

From 3 to 4 years, your child may:

  • speak in nearly complete sentences
  • use pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and possessives
  • play with language, making up words and rhymes or repeating chants: "Nicey, dicey, all insidey, apple pie!"
  • ask many why questions, as well as how and when
  • tell a simple story, but not in sequence
  • take turns in conversations, but still interrupt to talk about himself

From 5 to 6 years, your child may:

  • continue to expand her vocabulary to about 5,000 to 8,000 words
  • articulate his thoughts with adultlike speech
  • be aware that a word can have more than one meaning
  • begin to use language to control situations
  • often misunderstand words and use them in a humorous way
  • carry on conversations with others, yet still want to dominate

Remember, these are just guidelines. Every child develops differently. If you're concerned that your child's speech may be delayed, consult your pediatrician.

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