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Well Child Care > Speech Development

Speech Development

We often get questions about normal speech development. Here are some tips and resources.

Talk to your baby from day one! Hearing sounds and words helps them acquire language from the beginning. Baby's hearing should be checked soon after birth to be sure they can hear properly.

READ to your children daily! This helps build vocabulary. Also talk through everything you do with infants and toddlers to reinforce words for objects seen regularly.

By 6 months your baby should:
  • Vocalize with intonation, babble, and laugh
  • Respond to his name
  • Respond to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
  • Respond appropriately to friendly and angry tones
  • If sign language is taught, babies often prefer to use it

By 12 months your child should:
  • Use one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
  • Understand simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
  • Practice inflection
  • Be aware of the social value of speech

By 18 months your toddler should:
  • Have a vocabulary of approximately 5-20 words
  • Vocabulary made up chiefly of nouns
  • He may repeat a word or phrase over and over
  • There may be a lot of jargon or babbling that you don't understand
  • Be able to follow simple commands
  • Be able to point to objects
  • Understand more words than he speaks
  • Can use sign language

By 2 years:
  • Be able to name a number of objects
  • Be able to use at least two prepositions, usually chosen from the following: in, on, under
  • Combine words into a short sentence-largely noun-verb combinations 
  • Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
  • Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
  • Rhythm and fluency often poor
  • Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
  • Can use two pronouns correctly
  • My and mine are beginning to emerge
  • Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”

By 3 years:
  • Uses pronouns (I, you, me) correctly
  • Is using some plurals and past tenses
  • Knows at least three prepositions (usually in, on, under)
  • Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name
  • Handles three word sentences easily
  • Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
  • About 3/4 of what child says should be intelligible
  • Verbs begin to predominate
  • Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
  • Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason
  • Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”
  • Should be able to give his sex, name, age
  • Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected 

If you're worried about delayed speech, KidsHealth has great information.

Development of speech sounds from NONA:

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