“Talk to Me” – Stevie Nicks

I am trying not to be too wordy in this blog but I do want to share more information for my readers who are seeking reassurance their little ankle-biter is progressing within the typical development range of language in communication.

All children develop at different rates however many of my families want to know the typical development of language for children at particular ages.

How many words should my child say? What should my child be able to do by this age?

Typically, by the age of 12 months, children should:

  • Respond to familiar sounds (e.g. telephone ringing, sound of television)
  • Understand simple commands such as ‘no’, ‘stop’
  • Respond to his/her name by vocalising or turning head to stimulus
  • Understand names of familiar objects and people (e.g. older sibling’s name, ‘drink’)
  • Say a handful of common words (e.g. ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’, ‘no’, ‘up’, ‘more’)
  • Protests by saying “no” shaking head, moving away, frowning, or pushing objects away
  • Tend to use gestures to communicate (e.g. protodeclarative pointing – pointing at something to indicate interest)
  • Attempt to gain your attention by making sounds

By the age of 12-24 months (1-2 years), children should:

  • Imitate words and sounds
  • Listen to stories and give names of common pictures
  • Name simple body parts (e.g. nose, leg)
  • Understand simple sentences (e.g. ‘where are your shoes?’)
  • Use more than 50 words and less gestures
  • Sing simple songs (e.g. Twinkle, twinkle)
  • Use pronouns instead of names (e.g. ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’)
  • Be starting to put two words together (e.g. ‘daddy gone’)
  • Follow one step instructions (e.g. ‘put your shoes away’)
  • Vocalise with verbal turn-taking
  • Attempt to gain your attention by making sounds, words or gestures

By the age of 24-36 months (2-3 years), children should:

  • Understand what objects are used for
  • Follow two to three step instructions (e.g. ‘Put the spoon in the cup and give it to me)
  • Request objects by naming
  • Know a minimum of three location concepts (e.g. in, on, off)
  • Use three to four word sentences (e.g. “Daddy gone to work”)
  • Use –ing endings (walking, running, jumping)
  • Use plural ‘-s’ endings (cats, shops)
  • Attempt telling stories and asking questions
  • Use minimal gestures
  • Use manners consistently (e.g. please, thank you, excuse me)
  • Begin using and displaying basic emotions (e.g. happy, sad, mad)

By the age of 36-48 months (3-4 years), children should:

  • Understand most shapes and all colour names
  • Understand opposites
  • Ask questions (who, what, where, when, why, how, can I)
  • Use lots of words (900+) in four to five word sentences
  • Use appropriate grammar with occasional mistakes (e.g. I falled down)
  • Consistently use at least four location concepts
  • Begin to use language for humour
  • Talk about feelings
  • Request permission

By the age of five, children should be able to:

  • Follow instructions with three elements
  • Have knowledge of number and letter names
  • Use indirect questions (e.g. “Are you thirsty?” when they are thirsty)
  • Use ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘when’, ‘because’, ‘so’, ‘if’ in sentences
  • Provide an appropriate reason when asked ‘Why?’
  • Use descriptive words
  • Tell long stories about their own experiences
  • Boast, exaggerate and blend truths
  • Use non-verbal language such as facial expressions to get message to listener

This information is neither exhaustive or for diagnostic purposes. It is to give you, as parent/caregiver, an indication of what to potentially expect for each of these ages in the area of language.

For additional information regarding typical development for children, please refer to the fact sheets on the Speech Pathology Australia website.


I hope my blog has been helpful.