Birth to Age 5:
Typical Language Development

Parenting Tips and Tools from St. David's Center

Children acquire language at different rates. These are typical milestones for language development.

Ages 12-18 months:

  • Your child should speak his or her first words
  • Your child’s speech should be 25% intelligible by 18 months

thumbtackGood to know: There will probably be a spurt of language development before age two.

Ages 18-24 months:

  • Your child should use around 50 words
  • He or she should be able to follow commands such as pointing to pictures (“Point to your tummy”)
  • Your child’s speech should be 50-75% intelligible by two years of age


Good to know: Your child is not too young to be assessed. 


Ages 2 to 3 years:

  • Your child should be combining two to three words in phrases and asking simple questions
  • He or she should be able to follow two-part instructions (“Go get your cup and put it in the sink”)
  • Expect to see vocabulary expand to 300-400 words by age three
  • Your child’s speech should be 75-100% intelligible by three years

Age 3 ½ years:

  • Your child should be able to produce the sounds: p, b, m, h, w, t, d, f, k, g


Good to know: Language development should be steady; how fast or slow isn’t as important.

Age 4 years:

  • Your child should recognize gender difference, plurals (book vs. books), pronouns (he or she), adjectives (the red sock) and colors
  • Expect to see your child’s vocabulary expand to 1500 words by age three to four


Good to know: Good receptive language skills (how well they understand) help distinguish children who are late bloomers from children who are late talkers.

Age 5 years:

  • Your child should be able to produce the sounds: l, sh, ch, v
  • The sounds s, z, th, r come later


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Information on this site is provided for informational and educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional.  

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