Communication Milestones: Birth to 4 years

Milestones at Birth to 3 months

  • Will startle to sounds
  • Begins to smile
  • Lots of cooing

Milestones at 4 to 6 months

  • Turn to sounds
  • Begins to pay attention to music
  • Continues cooing but will also begin to babble (babble is more speech-like with consonant and vowel combinations e.g. bababa, puhpuhpuh)

    Milestones at 7 to 12 months

  • Looks when you point (this indicates emerging joint attention which is important for cognitive development, language development and social communication)
  • Turn to their name
  • Understands simple words such as cup, shoe, daddy
  • Understands simple phrases such as come here, do you want more
  • Enjoy playing social games like peekaboo, all around the garden etc.
  • Listens to stories and songs for longer
  • Babbles in longer strings
  • Use more gesture such as waving, pointing, reaching (there are strong links between gestural use and language skills at 24 months)
  • First words around 12 months such as Mama, dada, a pet’s name, a favourite toy

    Tips for communication development up to 12 months:

  • From birth, talk about and narrate what you are doing all day long!
  • Begin reading from birth too, learning to love books is a process!
  • Use ‘Parentese’ (adult-like, grammatical speech, using a slower rate, sing song tone & high pitched voice)
  • Develop turn taking skills by babbling back and forth

     Milestones at 12 to 18 months

  • Responds to own name
  • Uses lots of babble
  • Responds to “no” (may not like it!)
  • Adds two new gestures per month (e.g. clapping)
  • Uses lots of jargon (speaking in strings of syllables with some real words)
  • Copies the facial expressions and actions of others
  • Imitates symbolic sounds such as “moo”, “beep!”, “achoo!”
  • Words may not be clear (for example, final sounds are often dropped!)

    Tips for communication development 12 to 18 months:

  • Be animated
  • Sit face to face when reading and talking
  • Comment on what they’re doing
  • Narrate what you are doing regularly
  • Sing nursery rhymes regularly and pause to allow them to fill in the gap!
  • Play lots of social games like peekaboo
  • Play cause and effect games

     Milestones at 18 to 24 months

  • Simple pretend play emerges such as brushing dolly’s hair
  • Following simple instructions e.g. “Bring your shoes over”
  • Asks basic WH questions e.g. “where’s Daddy?”
  • Interested in other children playing but doesn’t not join in (parallel play)  
  • Answers yes/no questions
  • Lots of new words, at least 50 by 24 months
  • Listens to simple stories for longer
  • Points to pictures in books as you name them
  • Points to basic body parts
  • By 24 months understands around 200 words
  • Uses at least 2-word phrases by 24 months

    Tips for communication development 18 to 24 months:

    Follow their lead in play
  • Ask less questions, more comments
  • Functional words before ABC’s!
  • Exaggerate “yes” response with a nod
  • Add a word: if your child says “car” you say, “big car!”
  • Offer choices throughout their day
  • Use verbal routines e.g. ready, steady……go!
  • Give processing time when you ask a question
  • Read the same books over and over (children learn through repetition!)
  • Model a word to communicate pain e.g. “ouch”, “sore”

     Milestones at 2 to 3 years

  • Understands opposites (go/stop, big/little)
  • Follows 2-part instructions
  • May repeat some sounds and words e.g. “I I I want…”
  • Understands new words quickly
  • May still have difficulty with s, z, sh, ch, v, l, r, th speech sounds
  • Uses up to 900 words by age 3
  • Combines up to 5 words sentences by 3 years
  • Understands position concepts (in, on, under etc.)
  • Talks about things that are not in the room
  • Asks why questions (a lot!)
  • Can be understood by others 50 to 75% of the time

    Tips for communication development 2 to 3 years:

  • Slow your rate of speech to support their fluency
  • Give them time to answer questions
  • Verbalise your own thoughts “I think…”
  • Instead of correcting them, model and emphasise accurate grammar e.g. “He flew away!”
  • Use obstacle courses to teach position words (go under the cushions, across the couch… etc)
  • Instead of correcting speech errors, model accurate pronunciation
  • Continue to follow their lead in play
  • Ask concrete questions when reading What can you see? Who is this? What’s he doing?
  • Bring their attention to rhyming words (e.g. “Cat-hat! That rhymes!”)

    Milestones at 3 to 4 years

  • Understands time concepts before/after
  • Understand same/different
  • Still confuses some verb tenses e.g. “eated”
  • Awareness of past and future
  • Will still confuse some pronouns
  • Joins sentences with and/because
  • May still have difficulty with r and th sounds at 4 years (and beyond)
  • Can attend for up to 15 minutes
  • Can be understood by other 75 to 100% of the time
  • Can describe a scene in a book
  • Difficulty answering open questions e.g. What did you do today?

    Tips for communication development 3 to 4 years:

  • Use words like first/then when describing your day
  • Instead of asking open questions, ask specific questions about their day e.g. Who did you play with? What did you eat?
  • Play around with rhyming words
  • Use books to promote vocabulary growth
  • Talk about similarities and differences
  • Model verb tenses “I ate a …” what about you?